GANDHI SMARAK NIDHI, CENTRAL BOARD, NEW DELHI
After Gandhiji's assassination on January 30, 1948, the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress, at its meeting held at New Delhi, on February 6, 1948, resolved that a National Memorial Fund (NMF) be started to perpetuate Gandhiji’s memory. They authorised Dr. Rajendra Prasad to take all of the preliminary steps towards raising the NMF, and to appoint the Provisional Committee of eleven members, and office-bearers. It was further resolved that this Fund should be called Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (Gandhi National Memorial Fund). On the 13th Feb 1948, Dr. Rajendra Prasad issued an appeal for funds, broadly laying out the proposed objectives. A.I.C.C. endorsed this decision, and later a five-member Committee was constituted for forming the Trust and nominating its trustees. In New Delhi on February 17, 1949 they nominated the following people to serve as Trustees:
1. Dr. Rajendra Prasad
2. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
3. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
4. Dr. B. Pattabhi Sitaramaiyya
5. Pandit Gobind Vallabh Pant
6. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
7. Shri Jagjivan Ram
8. Smt. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur
9. Acharya Jiwatram Kripalani
10. Shri Devdas Gandhi
11. Smt. Sucheta Kripalani
12. Shri Ganesh Vasudeva Mavlankar
13. Shri Mangaldas Pakvasa
14. Shri Purshottamdas Thakoredas
15. Shri Jehangir R. D. Tata
16. Shri Ghanshyamdas Birla
17. Shri Kasturbhai Lalbhai
18. Shri Shri Ram
19. Shri A. P. Benthall
20. Dr. Gopichand Bhargava
21. Shri Shankarrao Deo
22. Smt. Yashodhara Dasappa
23. Shrimati Ashadevi Aryanayakam
24. Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh
They decided to set up an autonomous organization, namely, the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (GSN), Central Board, New Delhi. They entrusted the GSN with the responsibility of preserving and carrying forward Gandhiji's legacy. Some of the objectives defined by them included:
• Conduct and promote constructive activities which Gandhiji was associated during his lifetime and any other activities in furtherance of his ideals;
• Promotion and encouragement of education, particularly, basic education - Nai Talim - training of children and adults;
• Training of women in handicrafts, cottage-industries, and other useful crafts and arts, specially in the rural areas;
• Collection, preservation, and publication of Mahatma Gandhi's records consisting of his letters and correspondence, etc., his writings and teachings, study and propagation of his message and teachings of Truth and Non-violence, world peace and fellowships, his economics, sociology, and social, literary and other activities, and maintenance of study centres and libraries for such purposes;
• Maintain a museum where various relics, objects of veneration, books, articles and things connected with Mahatma Gandhi and his way of and outlook on life may be preserved;
• Preservation and protection of various places associated with Mahatma Gandhi's work and life;
• Training of men and women, and rendering help by grant to institutions, etc., for carrying out any of the aforesaid activities;
• And such other objectives.
In keeping with Gandhiji's ideals of promoting local initiative and Gram Swaraj, GSN has created and fostered more than 30 autonomous Gandhian institutions across the country. The National Gandhi Memorial Museum, New Delhi, and The Gandhi Memorial Museums, Madurai, Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, Sabarmati, Ahmedabad, Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Barrackpore, Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Patna at the state level, the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the Himalaya Seva Sangh, Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation, Wardha, Gandhi Film Foundation, Mumbai, several Gandhi Bhawans and Gandhi Study Centres in universities across the country, to name a few. In addition, three statues of historical importance were put up - the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, the Mani Bhawan in Mumbai and Anashakti Ashram, Kausani were also entrusted to GSN.
From the funds raised in the early 50s, GSN carried out many activities. Although GSN has not augmented its funds since then, it has somehow managed so far.
GSN provided these institutions with financial assistance giving several of these funds to enable them to stay functional and pay their staffl. These institutions have worked closely together, collaborating and cooperating on several core projects. GSN has always worked like an invisible enabler for Gandhian efforts across the country. It has functioned in the highest traditions of Gandhiji, always aiming to stay true to the core values.
GSN also created hundreds of Gram Seva Kendras (Rural Reconstruction Centres) across the country in the pursuit of Gandhiji's dreams, some of them being in usually disconnected areas, such as some parts of Nagaland that have been afflicted by violence. These centres have worked on spreading the message of peace, non-violence and social cooperation, helping to set up and run Khadi and other village industries. Several of these have been engaged in 'Go-Seva' (service of cattle), health and sanitation, eradication of untouchability, promotion of communal harmony, and voters' education to strengthen democracy. GSN was an active partner of the government in the mission to eradicate leprosy, pooling in its volunteers from across the country.
For the purpose of spreading Gandhiji's message, GSN has set up Tattva Prachar Kendras (TPK). TPKs organise trainings, camps and seminars focused on the essence of Gandhiji's learnings and teachings. Gradually, GSN handed over these centres to the Gandhi Peace Foundation.
For the collection and compilation of Gandhiji's writings and speeches, etc., GSN initiated a collection drive in the early fifties, mainly with Sabarmati Ashram. To do so, they collaborated with the CWMG Advisory Board, which constituted the longtime Gandhians from that period. This group was chaired by Morarji Desai, and facilitated by the Publications Division, Min. of I & B, GoI. The collections were published during the years 1956 to 1994 as The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi and the Sampoorna Gandhi Vangmaya, the English and Hindi versions, respectively
On December 27, 1958, GSN invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to India and hosted him for one month, during February-March 1959. They took him across the country. There was a direct connection to the struggles faced by many in India India with the situation in the USA, with African-Americans fighting for their civil rights. Since this was a social issue there was no diplomatic clash between the governments of India and the USA. A moving account of Dr. King's travels through India, sponsored and hosted by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, was published after the visit. A second edition was published in 2009.
In times of communal violence and riots, GSN had brought together several Gandhian organisations to establish peace and work towards removing communal discord. GSN established the Shanti Sena (Peace Corps) and Mahila Shanti Sena (Women's Peace Corps).
GSN played a central role in the Bhoodan Movement, which was led by Vinobha Bhave during 1951 to 1957, to help solve the land problem in India and establish Sarvodaya Social Order. It brought in volunteers from its centres across the country and engaged them with the social causes of the violence and the unrest. An entire generation of social workers came out of the Bhoodan Yajna.
In the 1960s, when the Chambal valley was becoming violent with armed rebels and dacoits, GSN sent its volunteers to negotiate and motivate the criminal gangs to surrender. Under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, this effort led to the surrender of 543 dreaded dacoits, who eventually laid down their weapons in front of a photograph of Mahatma Gandhi. GSN went a step further and worked along with the government to set up an open jail for the dacoits. The attempt to reform and transform violent gang members into a life of peace and cooperation was unprecedented.
When the centenary year of the Mahatma (1969) was approaching, the Government of India and the political leadership entrusted the planning and execution of all programmes to theGSN. In the 70s Gandhians from across the country strove hard to bring back the spirit of democracy.
In short, the GSN has been carrying on the Gandhi. It must sustain itself and retain its autonomy for all times to come. Once again, with great humility, we reach out, with the intention of raising funds. This is the first time after a gap of more than sixty years. Contribution for the purpose is welcome from individuals, organizations, institutions, corporations, foundations etc. both from India and abroad.
Contributions given to GSN will qualify u/s 80 G of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
" The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. "