When Nelson Mandela walked out of prison on 11 February 1990, he set his fractured country on the path to a stunning transformation, as apartheid made way for a tolerant, rainbow nation.
While the promise of those heady days may not have been realized in full, Mandela has remained an inspirational icon. In 1995, in what was one of his brightest acts of racial reconciliation, he encouraged black South Africans to support the controversial national rugby team in that year’s World Cup. (The incident has inspired the film Invictus, released last year.)
South Africa’s modern social trajectory has been similar to that of India. Both had socio-political change led by leaders who have preached non-violence and inclusive nation-building. In both, these policies have failed to provide lasting solutions. South African society still suffers from deep-seated inequality; and in India, social and political issues have become firebrands that defy equitable and peaceful resolution.
As India battles hate politics, we need to think of the work of this modern-day Gandhi.