When we look into the history books we find that almost all the big revolutions started with “Padyatras”. We are all familiar with the Dandi Yatra of Mahatma Gandhi which was a kind of initiation to our Independence drive. The walks of the great traveler, Chinese Buddhist monk Hsuan Tsang (Hiuen Tsiang) is again well known to us.
And in the modern era of today – in a world of political, regional, cast, and religious turbulences; there was a need for another such effort. And we had Sri M, who recently organised a 474-day ‘Walk of Hope’ from Kanya Kumari to Srinagar in J &K.
The 474-day ‘Walk of Hope’ was to exhort need for peace though an arduous 7,500 KM walk, which covered 11 states of the country since its start from the southern tip on January 12, 2015, was received with festive fervor in the Jammu and Kashmir capital, where the 67-year-old peacemaker addressed a gathering by the Dal Lake, reiterating the need for working in unison for the development of India, which has people from across a range of religions, race, socio-economic background among others.
“The padayatra has been a significant success. We have been able to convey the message of peace and harmony to millions along the route,” said Kerala-born Sri M (born as Mumtaz Ali Khan), who led 65-plus core-group volunteers in the journey during which he met people from various walks of life, besides leaders across the political spectrum and influential figures from different fields. “We have experienced an underlying spirit of oneness in people and their interest in maintaining an atmosphere of togetherness for the progress of the country.”
The Walk of Hope, he announced, will have a second edition. “The 2015-16 march may have ended, but my walk will continue. The one we now completed did not include the eastern and northeastern parts of our nation, added the yogi-educationist, whose autobiography ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master’ is a best-seller and lives in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh. “Whenever there are disruptions of peace in the country, I will walk there along with the local populace to address issues and restore peace and oneness.”
The march by Sri M’s Manav Ekta Mission, which advocates that humanity is one transcending religious, racial, geographical, cultural and ideological differences, covered the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab before reaching Jammu & Kashmir. Overall, it reached out to 11 million fellow Indians by interacting with local people and holding inter-faith prayers, besides eating together and, occasionally, resting overnight at their homes.
‘Walk of Hope’ had its Delhi leg in February reaching out personally to eminent figures such as President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari (who presented Sri M with the first Interfaith Harmony Award at the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Temple of Understanding India), a host of union ministers, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet colleagues. In an earlier leg to the national capital in autumn 2015, Sri M had (taking a break from the walk at Bhopal) met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and the party’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Sri M addressed members of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha on February 29 at the Parliament House in a meeting that was attended by union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Venkaiah Naidu, Suresh Prabhu, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, PJ Kurien and Oscar Fernandez. On April 13, taking another break, the spiritual leader also met with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome to inform him about Walk of Hope 2015-16 and its mission of peace and harmony in India.
At the states, the yatra received greetings from the chief ministers — of Kerala (Oommen Chandy), Karnataka (Siddaramaiah), Maharashtra (Devendra Fadnavis), Gujarat (Anandiben Patel), Madhya Pradesh (Shivraj Singh Chouhand), Uttar Pradesh (Akhilesh Yadav), Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal) and Haryana (Manohar Lal Khattar).
The main objectives of Walk of Hope have been interfaith harmony, equality for all, sustainable living, women empowerment, community health, education and youth development. The padayatra covered 15-20 km a day and halted in the evenings at a pre-determined village or town en route.
Sri M spoke extensively for the cause of peace and interfaith harmony during the Walk. The padayatra visited places of worship of Baha’is, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Jews, Sikhs and Zoroastrians along the route. The Walk passed through sensitive areas like Malappuram, Kerala; Hubli, Karnataka; Ahmednagar, Maharashtra; Godhra, Gujarat; and Pathankot, Punjab and spread the message of peace and communal harmony.
“In the course of the padayatra, we have humbly sown the seeds of Manav Ekta amongst the people, especially the youth of this country who are its future,” he noted in Srinagar. “One day, these seeds will grow into huge trees of oneness under whose shade our future generations will rest in togetherness. Each of us has a responsibility to spread the message of oneness — in our homes, neighbourhood, and elsewhere. We must evolve beyond selfishness and ensure a better future for the generations to come.”
The Walk of Hope organized Nirahar Satyagraha — a proclamation against terrorism & communal violence — at Pune (July 5, 2015), Ahmedabad (September 6), Bhopal (October 20), Varanasi (December 18) and the fifth at Jantar Mantar in Delhi (February 24, 25).
Sri M was born into a Muslim family on November 6, 1949 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He travelled to the Himalayas at the age of 19, meeting saints and sages, eventually introduced to the Hindu system of thought and philosophy by Maheshwarnath Babaji. He is married and has two children. His experiences are published as a memoir, Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master—A Yogi’s Autobiography. Currently based in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh (a three-hour drive from Bangalore), he leads a life of teaching, besides guiding the Satsang Foundation and Manav Ekta Mission.
MANAV EKTA MISSION
The Manav Ekta Mission, a wing of the Satsang Foundation established by Sri M, powers the Walk of Hope. Manav Ekta Mission works by encouraging and nurturing the innate goodness in every human being to achieve unity of all humanity. It advocates that humanity is one—transcending religious, racial, geographical, cultural and ideological differences. Apart from the Manav Ekta Mission, other initiatives of Satsang Foundation include Satsang Vidyalaya, Satsang Rural School, Peepal Grove School, Swasthya Kendra and Sarva Dharma Kendra.
My personal interaction with Sri M:
During one such fruitful interaction with Sri M, I was touched by his gesture towards the women of Jammu & Kashmir. He introduced me to a new world of information. This was about the half-widows of Kashmir. These women are those – whose husbands have vanished for quite some time now. No one knows whether they are alive or dead, whether they have joined any terrorist group or … Similar is the situation with some women in other states too. These women are treated as married and as such they cannot re-marry or claim any incentives of widows. And they are living in some real animal like situation with children to look after and almost no help from the society or govt.
So Sri M now sad that his next endeavour will be to work for these Half Widows of Jammu n Kashmir.
I was also touched by his noble gesture of following and respecting each and every religion on this planet earth – whether it was human or with nature or with fellow animals. During the walp he has made sure that he visits each and every religious establishment which fell on the route and take blessings.
He was very kind enough to treat us to a hot cup of filter coffee before saying goodbye and proceed for another interaction with media persons. Wishing him good luck and also my full support for his future efforts I left with a hope to join him some day to serve humans/nature/wildlife and also make my tenure on earth worthwhile.