By Arul Louis
New York, Dec 6 (IANS) The US House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to establish several educational programs and a foundation to promote the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the two great champions of non-violence.
The bill, Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Act, adopted on Thursday by a voice vote, was sponsored by the late civil rights leader, John Louis, last December and the co-sponsors included Representatives Ami Bera, Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal.
The bill seeks to set up exchange programs for scholars and undergraduate and post-graduate students from the two countries on social justice and human rights and the Gandhi-King Global Academy within the US Institute of Peace.
It also proposes setting up the US-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation to give out grants to NGOs in India for action on humanitarian, environmental, climate change and development issues.
One of the features of the educational component, the “Gandhi King Scholarly Exchange Initiative,” is the creation of an annual forum on the teachings of the two leaders.
The bill will now go before the Senate, where it will have to find a place amid the packed agenda in the final days of its current session.
After Elliot Engel, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee which had approved the bill in July, called for the suspension of the normal procedures for passing bills, the House approved it unanimously by a voice vote.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) welcomed the passage of the bill as an honor to the memory of Lewis.
“It is a fitting tribute that his (Lewis’s) bill institutionalising the legacy and teachings of both Gandhi and Dr King would pass in the 116th Congress and is on its way to becoming law,” said HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla.
Lewis, who died in July, was one of the champions of the non-violent US civil rights movement led by King.
He was the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and one of the organisers of the 1963 March on Washington at which King delivered his memorable “I have a dream” speech.
The bill said, “The world will benefit from a stronger United States-India partnership.”
It added, “Leaders in both countries belonging to both major political parties have prioritised the United States-India relationship and on a bipartisan basis continue to support a strengthened United States-India partnership, recognising that it will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”
“The use of non-violent civil disobedience is a shared tactic that has played a key role in defeating social injustice in India, the United States, and in other parts of the world,” the bill said.
The bill quoted King: “I am more convinced than ever before that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.”
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)
By Arul Louis