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DURBAN (Reuters) - Some of the ashes of revered Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi were scattered in the ocean off the South African coast Saturday, highlighting the political ties between the two countries.
Gandhi pioneered non-violent resistance to British rule in India and spent some of his early political years in South Africa, where he was involved in the struggle against racial discrimination and oppression.
His decades-long non-violent movement inspired leaders like Nelson Mandela who led the movement against apartheid in South Africa. U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King also looked up to Gandhi as his role model.
Government officials, as well as the South African navy, joined the boats carrying Gandhi's family and friends to scatter his ashes off the coast of Durban in KwaZulu Natal province.
"Today we commemorate his death anniversary and the important message of that is the intolerance that goes on in this world," said Gandhi's 69 year-old granddaughter Ela Gandhi, a respected activist.
"All these intolerances end up in violence, end up in wars and so on. If we can just do something to control those intolerances and promote love in the world for each other."
Gandhi's ashes were brought to South Africa after his death in 1948 but only some of them were immersed in the ocean while the rest were given to a family friend who kept them for decades.
"The teachings of Gandhi through the sadia graca philosophy was that of us human beings universally having to love one another, having to live in peace with one another, having to uphold the truth, to uphold correct ideals," said KwaZulu Natal's provincial leader, Acting Premier Willis Mchunu.
Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in New Delhi by a Hindu radical.
India observes Gandhi's death anniversary as Martyrs' Day in memory of all its freedom fighters.
Reporting by Spokes Mashiyane and Mary Theru; Writing by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Angus MacSwan