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Thursday, 05 March 2015 09:23   NewsX Bureau (With Inputs from PTI)

South African boost for Gandhian digital archive project

An MoU has been signed here between India and South Africa for digital images of the copies of 'Indian Opinion', a newspaper established by Mahatma Gandhi, to provide an authentic open source archive on the iconic leader's life and times.

Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam and Chief Executive of the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), Rocky Ralebipi-Simela, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for digital images of the copies for the period 1930-1949. "NLSA has the original copies of the issues of the Indian Opinion covering the period 1930-1949 and the Government of India has decided to procure the original digital images of these issues," Ghanashyam said.

This is part of a series of projects to mark the centenary of Gandhi's return to India after spending more than two decades leading the freedom struggle in South Africa. 'Indian Opinion', a weekly newspaper, was first established and produced by Gandhi and his colleagues in 1903 at a printing press at the Phoenix Settlement that he started near Durban.

The MoU is expected to give a big boost to the Indian Government's Gandhi Heritage Portal (GHP) which aspires to preserve the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and to be an authentic open source archive on the iconic leader's life and times in both countries. Articles in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Tamil focused on poor living conditions of indentured labourers, human rights and racial discrimination.

"The collection provides an important historical record of the social and political lives of the Indian community in South Africa," said Ghanashyam. "'Indian Opinion' was instrumental in the civil rights struggle and became a tool for political activism. Satyagraha, Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent resistance, was encouraged."

After Gandhi's return to India, 'Indian Opinion' was edited by his son Manilal and later by Manilal's wife Sushila Gandhi after Manilal's death. The final issue of this newspaper was produced in August 1961 after 58 years of existence.

Gandhi's public life began in South Africa and no archive or assessment of his contribution could ever be complete without a comprehensive view on his South African years. No library or archive in India, including the National Archives in New Delhi or the National Library at Kolkata have a complete, unbroken set of 'Indian Opinion'. The signing of the MOU will boost the plans of the GHP in its inaugural phase to have about five hundred thousand pages of material related to Gandhi.

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