The Fresno State Ethics Center, in collaboration with agriculture business department chair and program coordinator Srinivasa Konduru, hosted the 152nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at the Fresno State Peace Garden on Saturday, Oct. 2.
“He was the person that brought out the awareness that human beings are very important on this planet, and that they have to take care of this planet. And now our university also stands for those values,” said Sudarshan Kapoor, professor emeritus and founder of Fresno State’s peace and conflict studies program.
Xuanning Fu, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, spoke on behalf of President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, who was unable to attend the celebration.
Fu presented the president’s proclamation on making Oct. 2-9 a week to “Stop the Hate, Stop the Violence: Build a Culture of Peace Commemoration” and how those attending represented diversity.
“Your presence here today demonstrates that areas of diversity truly is our strength,” Fu said.
Kapoor led the discussion on the influence he hopes the Peace Garden has on campus. He said paying tribute to Gandhi pays tribute to humanity.
Fresno State is unique among other universities because the statues of individuals chosen to represent the Peace Garden aren’t represented together on any other campus as they are here, Kapoor said.
“There is no other campus, no other place here where there are statues of Gandhi, Dr. [Martin Luther] King, Ceasar Chavez at work and we wanted to create that kind of feeling here for our student body population and see what they have done,” Kapoor said.
“Our values of the university and the values that Gandhi promoted are the same so that’s why actually I think that having this kind of a message shared with the students and the community and inviting them is important.”
Kapoor also said that he feels that these types of celebrations are important for the community and students at the university because it helps them remember who these people were and what they stood for.
“I feel that these celebrations bring out a message and awareness so that people don’t forget who these people are, or were, and what they did for us. They sacrificed their lives, and they did all the things that they did just for the benefit of our present generation,” Kapoor said.
Kapoor reflected on the influence and inspiration the Peace Garden brings him. He said he hopes to add a statue in honor of the Native American community and wishes to involve the Native American community on the project later in the future.
Monish Gowda Nagaraj, a senior majoring in computer science, said the principle of non-violence is something he hopes everyone takes away from the celebration and thinks that Jiménez-Sandoval’s proclamation is a proper way of spreading the principles of Gandhi across campus.
Sharing his experience as a student from India, Nagaraj said he feels he has found a community on campus.
“It would normally feel like we have been left out from the community here but it is not like that here in Fresno State. They’re quite supportive of us here. I feel like I’ve got my second family here,” Nagaraj said.
Students from the peace and conflict studies program said it is important to continue to celebrate the accomplishments of Gandhi on campus as doing so every year will remind students that people still care.
Nan Adams, a junior majoring in business administration, said celebrating Gandhi shows that the university really does care about Indian culture and is passionate about having the chance to speak about such a historical landmark on campus.
“Not only is he a historical landmark, he is also a cultural landmark because he’s not just about human rights in a political sense but also in a cultural sense to the Indian community and the fact that we welcome people of all backgrounds here,” Adams said.
Alex Walker, a senior majoring in political science, said that he hopes that when a student enters the Peace Garden, regardless of their background or beliefs, that they find someone among the statues there that resonates with them.
“I think that this event brings the Peace Garden to life. Just like the other events when we celebrate Ceasar Chavez or Jane Addams, it shows that the Peace Garden isn’t just here and that it’s a lively event, that it’s a place where we can truly think about peace and reflect on ourselves,” Walker said.