BY: JELANI GRANT
At the end of October, McMaster University announced on Twitter they will be creating a scholarship dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. This scholarship is the first of its kind to be created in McMaster’s history and the first Gandhi scholarship in Ontario.
Retired lawyer Ramnarine Sahadeo is one of the people responsible for making the scholarship a reality. Sahadeo told Toronto Caribbean that his initial endowment is intended to finance the scholarship for at least five years, but he is seeking support for the school to permanently offer the scholarship. Sahadeo began studying the lessons of peace from Gandhi as a way to implore preventative law. “I try to avoid being angry at anything for as long as possible and I try to preach that to mostly teenagers and high school students,” he said.
As a lawyer, Sahadeo represented dozens of youth and said, through his experiences he has come to understand that most youth in trouble with the law need help to control their anger or greed. He has worked with the Youth Justice Program for years and believes the peaceful philosophies Gandhi promoted, such as karma, seva, truth, and non-violence. He has also traveled to Guyana to provide guidance to kids by speaking to them and donating books. Since his retirement after thirty-four years of active law practice, Sahadeo has researched, wrote, and lectured about the life of Gandhi. “We put up statues to these people and we don’t teach their principles,” he said. “It’s the message that is important.”
He has written numerous articles on Gandhi and also has a book entitled Mohandas K. Gandhi, Thoughts, Words, Deeds, sharing his interpretation of Gandhi’s philosophies. In the book’s description, Sahadeo explains that his mother used Gandhi’s lessons to help her take care of her six young children following her husband’s death.
Sahadeo collaborated with biology professor Rama Singh to conceive the scholarship in hopes that students would be inspired to learn more about Gandhi while receiving financial support for their studies. “As unlike the first generation Indo-Canadians who tend to be mired in Gandhi-India-Pakistan controversy, this son of Guyana has a long vision and can separate the chaffs from the kernels,” Singh said about Sahadeo.
Dr. Singh introduced the Annual Mahatma Gandhi lectures on nonviolence and is also on the council of the Annual Gandhi Peace festival; he has led the festival, as chair, since its inception twenty-five years ago. It started as an event by the India-Canada Society at City Hall, but now every year the festival commemorates the birth anniversary of Gandhi. Local organizations such as the YWCA, Hamilton’s Centre for Peace, and the Hindu Samaj temple all have been in attendance in support of the festival, illustrating its currently diverse audience.
Affectionately known as Mahatma, India would forever regard Gandhi as ‘Bapu’, Hindi for Father. He led India’s independence movement in the 1930’s and 1940’s by speaking softly, facing down the British colonialists with speeches and non-violent protest. Finding extreme poverty and famine in his own Gujarat province, Gandhi led an initiative to clean up the area, install new schools and build hospitals. His actions garnered enough attention to lead to him being arrested by British-appointed landlords for causing unrest but managed to talk his way out of jail and negotiate better conditions for the Indian farmers.
This year McMaster ranked 66th in the world and 3rd in Canada by the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities. The Scholarships Canada website currently only has four scholarships dedicated to Gandhi. Donations can be made online and in order to receive tax credits, donations should be made before the end of the year.