Arun Manilal Gandhi

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Gandhi at a memorial service at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 2012

Arun Manilal Gandhi (born April 14, 1934) is the fifth grandson of Mohandas Gandhi through his second son Manilal. Following the footsteps of his grandfather, he is also a socio-political activist, although he eschews the ascetic lifestyle of his grandfather.

Early life[edit]

Born in Durban, South Africa on April 14, 1934 to Sushila and Manilal Gandhi, Arun's childhood days under South Africa's apartheid for someone of Indian heritage was difficult. Like many Indians, he was demeaned by Europeans for not being white, ostracized by Africans for not being black, and subject to racially motivated violence from extremists in both groups.

While living with his grandfather Mohandas Gandhi from 1946 until his assassination in 1948, Arun experienced the most tumultuous period in India's struggle to free itself from British rule. He saw the first-hand effects of a national campaign for liberation which was carried out through both violent and nonviolent means. Both the events and his grandfather's teachings strongly influenced Arun.

When Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, Arun was in South Africa with his parents and felt such anger that he expressed the desire to take revenge upon the assassin. Then his parents reminded him of his grandfather’s words: Never react immediately in anger. Arun's parents taught him to "forgive" and dedicate his life to ending senseless violence in the world.

After the death of his father in 1956, Arun went to India to immerse his father's ashes in the River Ganges. During the trip Arun suffered a severe attack of appendicitis and was hospitalized for surgery. He fell in love with his nurse and later decided to marry her only to be told by the South African Government that his wife would not be allowed entry into South Africa. In 1957 Arun started as a trainee journalist and reporter for The Times of India. On February 21, 2007, Arun's wife, Sunanda (1932–2007), who was two years older than him, died of a massive cardiac arrest while on a trip to India. She was also a partner in Arun's nonviolent campaigns. The couple had a son, Tushar, who is also an activist, and a daughter, Archana, and four grandchildren.


Gandhi considers himself to be a Hindu but expresses universalist views.[1] Gandhi has worked closely with Christian priests and his philosophies are strongly influenced by Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian concepts. Like his grandfather, he also believes in the concept of 'non-violence' (Ahinsa). In 2003 he was one of the signatories to Humanism and Its Aspirations (Humanist Manifesto III).[2]

Nonviolent activism[edit]

In 1987, Arun Gandhi moved to the United States along with his wife, Sunanda, to work on a study at the University of Mississippi. This study examined and contrasted the sorts of prejudices that existed in India, the U.S., and South Africa. Afterward they moved to Memphis, Tennessee and founded the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence hosted by the Christian Brothers University, a Catholic academic institution. This institute was dedicated to applying the principles of nonviolence at both local and global scales. In 1996, he cofounded the Season for Nonviolence as a yearly celebration of the philosophies and lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..[3][4]

In fall of 2007, Gandhi co-taught a course entitled "Gandhi on Personal Leadership and Nonviolence" at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland.[5] On November 12, 2007, Gandhi gave a lecture for the Salisbury University Center for Conflict Resolution’s “One Person Can Make a Difference” Lecture Series, entitled “Nonviolence in the Age of Terrorism”.[6] In fall of 2008, Gandhi returned to Salisbury University to co-teach a course entitled "The Global Impact of Gandhi".[7]

In 2007, after the passing of his wife, the institute moved to Rochester, New York, and is currently located on the University of Rochester River Campus.[8]

Arun has given many speeches about nonviolence in many countries. During his tour to Israel, he urged the Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation peacefully to assure their freedom. In August 2004, Gandhi proposed to the Palestinian Parliament a peaceful march of 50,000 refugees across the Jordan River to return to their homeland, and said MPs should lead the way. Gandhi also claimed that the fate of Palestinians is ten times worse than that of blacks in South African Apartheid. He asked: "What would happen? Maybe the Israeli army would shoot and kill several. They may kill 100. They may kill 200 men, women and children. And that would shock the world. The world will get up and say, 'What is going on?'."[9] Gandhi later said that Yasser Arafat was receptive to the march idea, but it became a moot point after Arafat's November 2004 death.[citation needed] On January 7, 2008, while writing for the Washington Post's On Faith blog, Gandhi wrote that "Jewish identity is locked into the holocaust experience," in which Jews "overplay . . . to the point that it begins to repulse friends...Apparently, in the modern world, so determined to live by the bomb, this is an alien concept. You don't befriend anyone, you dominate them. We have created a culture of violence (Israel and the Jews are the biggest players) and that Culture of Violence is eventually going to destroy humanity". Gandhi later apologized for his remarks, saying he had been talking about all Jews when he should have been talking about Israel's policies, but he ended up resigning from his Institute on January 25, 2008.

On October 12, 2009 Arun visited the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh to talk to P7's from all over Eastlothian in Scotland.[citation needed] On November 11, 2009 Arun visited Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Chattanooga, TN to speak and spread his message of peace.[citation needed] On November 13, 2009 Arun visited Cleveland State Community College in Cleveland, TN to speak and spread his message of peace. On November 16, 2010 Arun visited The University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY to speak and spread his message of peace.[10]

On March 2, 2011, Arun Gandhi spoke at the East West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii. He spoke about Nonviolence: A Means for Social Change. On the same day he also spoke at Iolani School in Honolulu, on the subject of The Wisdom of Choosing Peace. On March 3, 2011, Arun Gandhi spoke at the University of Hawaii Architecture Building, in an event sponsored by the Spark Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Honolulu, Hawaii. On March 4, 2011 spoke at the Pacific Buddhist Academy in Honolulu, Hawaii. He also spoke at the Hawaii State Capitol (public auditorium) on the subject of "The Power of Peace to Create a Culture of Human Rights in Hawaii and the World." This was part of the Human Rights Week, sponsored by the State of Hawaii. He also spoke at the Pioneer Plaza Club in downtown Honolulu on the subject of "Gandhian Peace (Nonviolence) A Pathway for Resolving Modern Day Conflict." On March 5, 2011 Arun visited The International Society for Krishna Consciousness Temple in Honolulu, HI to speak and spread his message of peace. He also spoke at To Ho No Hikari Church in Honolulu, in an event sponsored by Dr. Terry Shintani, on the subject of "The Way of Nonviolence Towards All Living Beings", and at the Hawaii Convention Center as part of the PAAAC Youth Conference. On March 6, 2011 Arun Gandhi spoke at Unity Church, Diamond Head, Honolulu on the subject of "Lessons I Learned With My Grandfather."

Arun Gandhi's 2011 tour of Honolulu was sponsored by Barbara Altemus of the We Are One Foundation and by the Gandhian International Institute for Peace. Arun Gandhi is featured in “THE CALLING: Heal Ourselves Heal our Planet” a Documentary Film in Production created by Barbara Altemus, directed by Oscar-nominated William Gazecki.

On March 23, 2012, Arun Gandhi was the keynote speaker at the first annual Engaging Peace Conference at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA.


We want to create world peace. But peace is not merely the absence of war. There is so much internal strife and that prejudice feeds into the national aspect. We have to change ourselves if we want to change the world.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arun Gandhi reaches beyond Hindu religious traditions
  2. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved September 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ Housden, R. (1999) Sacred America: The emerging spirit of the people. Simon & Schuster. p 201.
  4. ^ Morrissey, M.M. (2003) New Thought: A Practical Spirituality. Penguin.
  5. ^ Salisbury University press release, July 17, 2007.
  6. ^ Salisbury University press release: Dr. Arun Gandhi Speaks on Nonviolence November 12, October 23, 2007.
  7. ^ [1], September 12, 2008
  8. ^ Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence Relocates to University of Rochester, June 1, 2007 press release, University of Rochester.
  9. ^ March home, urges Gandhi grandson, August 31, 2004.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Arun Gandhi held briefly, The Hindu, Feb 27, 2008

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