“Today, as we recall Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom, we also observe Anti-Leprosy Day. For it was a milestone in the struggle against the disease and its attendant problems when Gandhiji personally nursed Parchure Shastri, a leprosy sufferer in his Sevagram Ashram. Shastri, a Sanskrit scholar, was his friend and jail-mate from his Yeravada Jail days in 1932. Shunned and humiliated all his life, he asked Gandhiji whether he could live and die in Sevagram. Gandhiji, of course, admitted Shastri but added that he would not give him permission to die! If only one knows how prevalent the stigma against the leprosy-affected is today, can one possibly measure how much greater it was in Gandhiji’s time? Hence the importance of Gandhiji’s real and symbolic involvement for more than five people who at the time suffered from the disease and its attendant hardships.”
Original Post in The Hindu can be read here.
The date for World Leprosy Day was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948. During his lifetime, Mahatma Gandhi worked tirelessly towards the betterment of people afflicted with leprosy.
Even in those days, Gandhiji nursed few leprosy patients shunned by the world at Sabarmati Ashram. In the last six decades, India has made a lot of progress towards achieving the goal of elimination of leprosy, but much needs to be done in spreading awareness about the disease and changing the attitudes of people towards the affected.
Samskriyā pays homage to Mahatma Gandhi on Anti-Leprosy Day and on the eve of World Leprosy Day, 2016.