Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Nelson Mandela statement on receiving Truth & Reconciliation Commission report; Can Sathya Sai movement learn from it?

[Ravi: I have huge admiration for Nelson Mandela though my knowledge about him is rather limited. Even that rather limited knowledge tells me that Mandela was a truly inspirational and great man who rose above anger at horrific injustice meted out to him and his people, and steered his nation to victory over apatheid without too much bloodshed, and then put it on a path of truth & reconciliation. What a role model he is for so many other communities and peoples, across the world, to follow!]

Excerpts from Nelson Mandela's statement on receiving the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, 29 October 1998,

South Africa is no longer the country it was when we adopted the Interim Constitution in 1993, when, together, we resolved to overcome the legacy of our violent and inhuman past.

(Out) of that negotiation process emerged a pact to uncover the truth, the better to build a bright future for our children and grandchildren, without regard to race, culture, religion or language.

Today we reap some of the harvest of what we sowed at the end of a South African famine.
That so many have taken part in the Commission's work so far - individuals, organisations and institutions - and that our media provided us with such extensive coverage and commentary which the public followed with interest, tells us that we were and are engaged in a truly national process.

At the helm of it all has been the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, who has, during the hearings, conveyed our common pain and sorrow, our hope and confidence in the future.

To you and all the Commissioners and staff of the TRC we say, on behalf of the nation: Thank you for the work you have done so far!

If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation's humanity.
All are free to make comment on it and indeed we invite you to do so. And for those who feel unjustly damaged, there are remedies.

It will seem artificial to some to place those fighting a just war alongside those whom they opposed.

It will be difficult for the victims of gross violations of human rights to accept the philosophical account of the trade-off between punitive justice and a peaceful transition.

It may be difficult for many to accept the finding that the apartheid state was the primary perpetrator of gross human rights violations.

Yet if we are true to our founding pact, we cannot equivocate about a system which exacted such inhumanity, There can be no dissonance with regard to the clarion call: Never Again!
The Commission was not required to muster a definitive and comprehensive history of the past three decades. Nor was it expected to conjure up instant reconciliation. And it does not claim to have delivered these either. Its success in any case depended on how far all of us co-operated with it.

Yet we are confident that it has contributed to the work in progress of laying the foundation of the edifice of reconciliation. The further construction of that house of peace needs my hand. It needs your hand.

Reconciliation requires that we work together to defend our democracy and the humanity proclaimed by our Constitution.

It demands that we join hands, as at the Job Summit tomorrow, to eradicate the poverty spawned by a system that thrived on the deprivation of the majority.

Reconciliation requires that we end malnutrition, homelessness and ignorance, as the Reconstruction and Development Programme has started to do.

It demands that we put shoulders to the wheel to end crime and corruption, as religious and political leaders committed themselves to doing at the Morals Summit last week.
We are extricating ourselves from a system that insulted our common humanity by dividing us from one another on the basis of race and setting us against each other as oppressed and oppressor.

In doing so that system committed a crime against humanity, which shared humanity we celebrate today in a Constitution that entrenches humane rights and values.

In denying us these things the Apartheid State generated the violent political conflict in the course of which human rights were violated.

The wounds of the period of repression and resistance are too deep to have been healed by the TRC alone, however well it has encouraged us along that path.

Consequently, the Report that today becomes the property of our nation should be a call to all of us to celebrate and to strengthen what we have done as a nation as we leave our terrible past behind us forever.
Above all, we should remember that it was when South Africans of all backgrounds came together for the good of all that we confounded the prophets of doom by bringing an end to this terrible period of our history.

Though the liberation movement was the primary agent of this change, it could not have done so on its own.

To the extent that popular resistance stirred all of South Africa into action, to that extent are we all responsible for an outcome that did not take us deeper into the horrors of a wasteland.

Now the challenge is for all of us to protect our democratic gains like the apple of our eye.

It is for those who have the means, to contribute to the efforts to repair the damage wrought by the past. It is for those who have suffered losses of different kinds and magnitudes to be afforded reparation, proceeding from the premise that freedom and dignity are the real prize that our sacrifices were meant to attain.

Free at last, we are all masters of our destiny.

A better future depends on all of us lending a hand - your hand, my hand.

---- end excerpts ---

Ravi: Can the Sathya Sai fraternity too follow this path in spirit by being truthful about some difficult past events in the trauma that we faced after Mahasamadhi? Most of us are not perfect (I certainly am not perfect and have my fair share of flaws). So we may have all made mistakes in the traumatic period after Mahasamadhi. But let us not be scared of such mistakes being shared with the community. Note that I am not talking about personal matters like whether one takes some alcohol or stuff like that. I mean, we need not get into moral policing here. What we are talking about is mistakes made in execution of duties as part of the Sathya Sai organization or even as part of the fraternity but in an individual role (like me).

Dictatorial organizations which stifle criticism and dissent, breed power craze and abuse of power. This is very, very well known. So, in my considered opinion, Sathya Sai movement should now embrace 21st century norms of transparency and accountability which will necessarily involve freedom to politely criticize or politely express a dissenting view (sometimes the criticism turns harsh if there is no response to polite criticism; that too has to be tolerated to some extent). No leader, small or big, should think himself/herself above criticism and above accountability. That simply will not work in today's world, IMHO. I mean, Hitlers and Stalins are passe in most of the world today, including democratic India, especially after the revolution in information sharing that the Internet has powered.

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