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Why did Modi gift a cotton scarf to the G20 leaders and what is its significance?

Why did Modi gift a cotton scarf to the G20 leaders and what is its significance?

(CNN) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to gift world leaders with a hand-woven scarf on Sunday in New Delhi was an act steeped in history and symbolism, intended to highlight the country’s freedom movement on the international stage.

Leaders G20 (G20) They entered Rajghat, a memorial to Engineer K. Gandhi, the father of Indian independence who was assassinated in 1948, were welcomed with khadi scarves, the main symbol of his campaign of nonviolent resistance that contributed to India’s independence from British colonial rule.

Modi was seen wrapping a hand-woven white cotton scarf around the necks of US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, among others, as they posed for photos in front of the large backdrop of the Sabarmati ashram, in Gujarat, one of several residences Gandhi owned around India.

For Gandhi, the man who became a global symbol of peace and nonviolence, khadi scarves were a symbol of self-reliance, a garment that Indians could make locally and was designed to boycott goods imported or made in Britain during India’s colonial rule. .

They showed the Indians that they were capable of developing their industrial potential, freeing the country from dependence on its former colonial rulers.

Gandhi often wove his own khadi on a spinning wheel, a machine that came to symbolize the country’s political and economic liberation.

On this Sunday, in Rajghat, world leaders gathered in silence, scarves around their necks, in front of a raised marble platform, built to mark Gandhi’s cremation site.

“As diverse nations come together, Gandhiji’s timeless ideals guide our collective vision of a harmonious, inclusive and prosperous global future.” Modi wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Rajghat, New Delhi, on September 10, 2023. (Photo: Kenny Holston/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Within the country, Gandhi’s legacy left an indelible mark on Indian culture. His face is printed on all Indian rupee notes, while buildings, museums, streets and landmarks are routinely named after him.

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But while Modi has made Gandhi a fixture at this weekend’s G20 summit, the freedom fighter’s legacy within Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party remains complicated.

The BJP has its roots in the Rashtriya Swayam Sangh, a prolific Hindu nationalist organization that counts Modi among its members.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh adheres to Hindutva, the ideology that favors the country’s Hindu majority, and has supported the vision of an explicitly Hindu state, rather than the secular state that Gandhi envisioned and helped create.

When India gained independence from Britain in 1947, right-wing Hindu nationalists called for the partition of British India into two separate states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. On the other hand, Gandhi opposed the partition of the country and called for the unification of India with all religions.

Less than a year later, Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a former RSS member. In the last years A marginal movement emerged Who worships the killer and tries to rehabilitate his image as a Hindu nationalist icon.

On the other hand, the BJP and its supporters have been accused of belittling the legacy of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was an ardent admirer and long-time ally of Gandhi.

Modi condemned Godse worship and did not stop praising and showing respect to Gandhi, inside and outside India.

But opposition politicians criticized the memorial ceremony held on Sunday for what they saw as double standards.

The newly formed All India Alliance, a group of political parties that have united to oust Modi in next year’s general elections, wrote on social media: “All RSS-BJP workers should watch this video. Their hero, Nathuram Godse, killed Mahatma Gandhi.” “.

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“For decades, you have been spreading lies against Gandhi ji. You yourselves are filled with hatred towards him and continue to belittle his contributions and spread lies about him.”