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In a world bereft of leaders | The Indian Express

If the army feels it requires continuation of the AFSPA to discharge its responsibilities, no other agency is qualified to credibly challenge that view. Why Nelson Mandelas legacy is especially resonant today. Nelson Mandela has not been a factor on the world stage for some years now,and his remarkable achievements have faded into the fog of history,but the critical nature of his illness has forced the world to set up a global vigil and reminded us what true leadership is all about. There is an entire library of books on Mandela,apart from his autobiography,Long Walk to Freedom. It was,however,his last book,Conversations with Myself,released in 2010,that revealed so much of the man. It was a deeply personal and moving memoir sourced from his personal archives and contained recorded conversations,journals,letters to friends,colleagues and family,and really confirmed the greatness of the leader and his unique compassion and vision. Here is just one extract from the diary of a fellow prisoner on Robben Island. Even under these hellish conditions,Mandela managed to study and encouraged the other prisoners to share their knowledge with each other and to debate their ideas. Lectures were arranged in secrecy and the prison came to be known as Mandela University. Mandela never relented in his efforts to change mistaken views and create allies among those around him. Eventually,his indomitable spirit gained the respect of even the prison guards. In a world in deep economic and political trouble,when the concept of democracy itself is under question in many countries,his iconic leadership and legacy is remarkable. To forgive those who tortured and imprisoned him for 27 years the day after he was released,and turn his country,a rabidly racist South Africa,into a dynamic,multi-ethnic,multicultural rainbow nation is an achievement that defines leadership,a word that seems to have been buried under the debris of economic and political crises that bedevil todays world. Indeed,a world that seems bereft of leaders and leadership. Which is probably what makes Mandela seem like a colossus among pygmies,and makes the power of his legacy even more important. If anything is required in a world in turmoil,from Turkey to Egypt,Bulgaria to Brazil,it is a responsive,compassionate leadership with a vision that embraces the larger sections of society. Brazils president was forced to retract her original policy on fare increases on public transport,but it revealed a larger truth. The fare hike protests rapidly turned into a widespread condemnation of everything from corruption to public services. In Bulgaria too,the government gave in to the crowds demand over a controversial appointment but in doing so,opened up a can of worms as the protests widened. These are mostly middle-class citizens,like in India during the Anna Hazare movement,not lobbies or opposition groupings. Their unique form of protest,fuelled by technology,is largely aimed at the arrogance of leadership. Politicians of today seem intent on reliving the past in terms of policies and initiatives,rather than thinking new,inclusive and out of the box,as Mandela did when he was in prison and as president. The roll call of todays leaders makes for depressing reading. President Obama,once so inspirational a figure,is a pale shadow of his original avatar,and largely abandoned by middle class America. In Russia,President Putins unpopularity was evident during the protests that greeted his manipulative return to the top job. In India,Manmohan Singh is the butt of SMS jokes,so low has his stature fallen. Europe is shrinking as inept leaders struggle to cope with rising unemployment and disenchantment with leaders and policies. This is where Mandelas legacy assumes such significance. Today,economic clout,military superiority and advanced technology are no substitute for moral authority. It is a rare gift,given to few leaders,but it represents a powerful force. In tribute to the country that spearhead the anti-apartheid movement (under Rajiv Gandhi),Mandela visited India twice,in 1990,shortly after he was released from prison,and again in 1997,on an official visit as president. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the official banquet hosted by the then prime minister at Hyderabad House. When it was my turn to greet the great man,I remember telling him: Mr President,my daughter has asked me not to wash my hands after shaking yours,she is waiting till I get home so she can put my hand in hers. Mandela flashed that famous smile asked my daughters name and age and said: I must tell that to my daughter when I get back. Humility,no arrogance,no presidential airs. My daughter was then all of 14 years old and not an activist or political animal,but even she understood the magnet of moral authority.
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