Displaced children to sing for Mahatma Gandhi

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New Delhi, Oct 1: They can barely speak Hindi, but students who have been displaced by the Narmada Dam have learned devotional songs of Kabir, Ravidas and Meera that were dear to Mahatma Gandhi, which they will recite on his 144th birth anniversary on Wednesday.

But this is not the only unique feature that will be showcased in this year's Gandhi Jayanti – observed every year on Father of the Nation's birthday on Oct 2 – but another musical rendition by 40 children belonging to the Tana Bhagat movement, followers of Mahatma Gandhi.

Belonging to six districts of Jharkhand, these children always wear white and a Nehru cap.

A total of 600 children are part of the choral group, including 50 displaced children, preparing for the big day at Gandhi Smriti, the place where Mahatma Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life and was assassinated on Jan 30, 1948.

Meera Balchandra, whose family along with dozens of others who were displaced during the construction work for the Narmada dam, said she and others are very excited to be part of the group that will be singing before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries.

"We know all the songs by heart and will sing them in front of the prime minister," an excited Balchandra said.

As she could barely speak in Hindi she communicated through her teacher Pawarel Suklal.

Panche Tana, a student of the Tana Bhagat movement, said: "It is the first time that anybody from Jharkhand has come here and will be singing and paying tributes to Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi)."

Sunita Gupta, a teacher who has been working with the tribal children, said: "For these children their only festival is Gandhi Jayanti, Independence Day and Republic Day. So it was essential to make them a part of the celebrations here."

Tana Bhagats believe that the only way to improve their situation is to practice Gandhism in their life and to follow the Gandhian way of life.

The children, along with students from various government schools from Delhi, have been practising for almost a month now.

The songs will be different too this year.

"This year we have decided that these children will not sing hymns or patriotic songs, but will rather sing songs by Kabir, Ravidas and MeeraBai," Sudhanshu Bahugana, the music teacher who has been leading the children for the past 15 years, said.

Bahugana, who is also a music teacher, added: "We want the children to imbibe the message of universal love and peace which are inherent in these songs composed by the great saints."

Visually impaired students are also part of the group that are rehearsing a Kabir song, "Tohi Mohi Antar Kaisa" (why the difference between you and me).

"We have also brought students with visual impairment to be a part of the celebration as we want to bring inclusiveness," Rajdeep Pathak, programme executive of Gandhi Smriti, said.

Also, students from Bapa Ashram School in north Delhi will be present at the event with the charkha or spinning wheel that Gandhi used to give the message of self reliance and self sustenance.

IANS

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