New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Citing apartheid as “an early example of state terrorism against the majority population”, it took an “extraordinary man” like Nelson Mandela “who dedicated his life to the emancipation of his people from the jackboot of the oppressor” to bring South Africa to where it is today, a former Indian envoy to the country, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee has said.
“What made apartheid truly evil and unique is that it took de facto discrimination on racial basis and made it de jure”, Mukherjee said while delivering the Nelson Mandela Centenary Lecture on his 100th birth anniversary on Wednesday.
Noting that state power was used ruthlessly to enforce and promote apartheid, Mukherjee said: “In the modern era, this was an early example of state terrorism against the majority population in the same country.”
Apartheid, Mukherjee said, stole an entire population’s human dignity and declared them sub-human by law, based solely on the non-white color of their skin.
Invoking the “infamous” 1963 Rivonia trial, which marked the beginning of Mandela’s 27-year imprisonment, the envoy quoted Mandela’s words from the behind the courtroom dock.
“Why is it that in this courtroom I face a white magistrate, am confronted by a white prosecutor, and escorted into the dock by a white orderly? Why is it that no African in the history of this country has ever had the honour of being tried by his own kith and kin, by his own flesh and blood,” the fierce leader had asked of the magistrate.He said the answer to what Nelson Mandela’s legacy for democratic South Africa lay in the question itself.
“His greatest legacy to the country is a democratic South Africa — a country that was transformed from being the polecat of the world to a true democracy,” he added.
The former diplomat also spoke fondly of ‘Madiba’ — the name lovingly given to the global icon.
He recalled being awestruck the first time he met Mandela in a “small sitting room” at his residence, and said this feeling of awe was not unusual for those who met the anti-apartheid activist.
“Madiba met everyone — from king to commoner — with a relaxed gentleness and courtesy that put everyone very much at ease.”
Mukherjee concluded by saying that Mandela truly lived up to the Indian saying of “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” (The world is my home), and considered all people his family.
Mukherjee, an honorary fellow of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) also interacted with students from over 10 schools, earlier in the day, and highlighted the role of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela in the freedom struggles of their respective countries, at the India International Centre here.