Mandela’s biggest legacy was his remarkable lack of bitterness and the way he did not only talk about reconciliation, but he made reconciliation happen in South Africa,” said F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president before giving way to Mandela, the country’s first black leader.
On Friday Morning, when I heard about Nelson Mandela’s death there is one thing that immediately came to my mind: World has become a poorer place to live! It is a huge loss not only to the people of Africa but to the world, which has looked up to him as an icon of Freedom, Fairness and Justice. People, who have closely worked with him, have described him as someone born to lead.
He best described himself in a speech in 1964, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Rolihlahla Mandela was born in 1918 in the village of Mvezo and was given the name Nelson by his teacher at primary school. He lost his father at an age of nine. He was expelled from the University for Political Activism along with Oliver Tambo. And soon after became head of ANC’s armed struggle. First as a lawyer, then an activist and ultimately as a guerrilla leader, Mandela fought against the racial discrimination against the black people in Africa. He spent 27 years of his life in prison initially on Robben Island and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Vester Prison and was finally released in 1990. He rose to become the first black president of democratic South Africa and received noble prize for peace in 1993.
In 1980’s, Ronald Regan placed Mandela’s African National Congress on America’s official list of terrorist groups and he was not removed from same as late as 2008.
Kashmir, has always felt some kind of connection with this man. As a Chairman of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) it was he who raised Kashmir issue saying, “All of us remain concerned that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir should be solved through peaceful negotiations, and should be willing to lend all the strength we have to the resolution of this matter”. This was the first time that the issue of Kashmir had ever come up in a NAM Chairman’s speech.
In mid 1990’s when a separatist leader was released after spending some 15 years in jail, he was welcomed as Nelson Mandela of Kashmir. A protestor, who rose to some fame in 2008 agitations, was also called Mandela. I remember him saying in an interview to news channel, I was born on the day when Nelson Mandela was released from Prison, since then my parents lovingly call me Mandela and so did my friends. For the people of Kashmir, Nelson Mandela was the leader of masses.
Mandela was admired by every Kashmiri. He was respected for his unwavering commitment to the cause of people and steadfastness towards his struggle for freedom.
Madiba as he is affectionately known as would be missed by the people all around the world for his leadership qualities, his conviction and his achievements.
Rest in Peace!