An event to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at the occasion of marking his 150th birthday and Lal Bahadur Shastri, a former PM of India marking his 115th birthday was held on Saturday 19 October at Western Sydney University, Rydalmere campus organised by Indian Overseas Congress Australia.

Sydney siders were very fortunate to hear the untold stories of the two great Indian icons by their descendants face to face, Professor Uma Mesthri, great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi and Mr Anil Shastri, son of PM LB Shastri.

Mr Manoj Sheoran, President of Indian Overseas Congress Australia (IOCA) welcomed the guests acknowledging the presence of a diverse variety of community leaders and activists, among them a large number of young people of Indian origin.

Mr Sheoran said that 2019 is a significant year where more than 100 nations in the world are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gandhiji who propounded the idea of the non-violent struggle that has been emulated by many people throughout the world against oppression and domination.

This man of peace and non-violence, unfortunately, became the victim of violence when he was shot by a Hindu extremist in 1948 and died soon after India became independent.

This year also marked the 115th anniversary of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the second prime minister of India, another man of peace who gave the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and signed for a peace agreement with Pakistan and passed away due to heart failure in Russia while on his peace mission.

A couple of documentaries were shown on the life and achievements of both of these Indian luminaries and their contribution to India and its people of all faiths and cultures.

Professor Uma Mesthri shared family stories of Gandhiji and his family in a most interesting manner and delved into the personality of her great-grandfather as told by her grandmother.

She said that Gandhiji was initially a very shy man, but became a public figure after fighting for equality of man and a stalwart against racism starting from his time in South Africa and later in India.

Professor Uma Mesthri.

She disclosed that Gandhiji arranged the marriage of his son, Prof Mesthri’s grandfather, with the daughter of a lady who used to reside in Gandhiji’s Ashram, in spite of her being partially deaf.

Mr Shastri, a former union minister, during his keynote speech, talked about the simplicity of his father Lal Bahadur Shastri who remained steadfast during the war and opted for peace when the opportunity arose.

Mr Anil Shastri.

After a Q&A session, refreshments were served together with informal discussions at the event.

The Indian Overseas Congress Australia (IOCA) is an ASIC registered non profit organisation with Australia wide presence representing the ideology of Indian National Congress and conduct activities based on but not limited to the following broad objectives.

  • To work towards enhancing International Relations between India and Australia
  • Enhance Business, Trade, Cultural & Social Exchange
  • To facilitate networking opportunities between Indian political leaders and Australian leaders
  • To raise funds to support India during natural calamity or on other relevant issues
  • To promote the inclusive, democratic, secular and social justice values to enhance the goodwill of India
  • Conduct and convene meetings to discuss about the problems and needs of the Non Resident Indians and persons of Indian origins and effectively collaborate with Indian Government to resolve issues.