Students learn about Kasturba Gandhi at ‘Accidental Activist’ film event


Cesar Maya/The Collegian

“Kasturba Gandhi: Accidental Activist” directed by Cynthia Lukas, follows Mahatma Gandhi’s wife and her influence on pivotal moments in their lives. The film screening was held in the Peters Educational Center on March 16.

By Cesar Maya, Reporter

In honor of Women’s History Month, a special screening was held to share a documented journey of a woman whom Mahatma Gandhi considered to be his “guru” and “teacher of nonviolence” — his wife and partner Kasturba Gandhi.

The documentary film “Kasturba Gandhi: Accidental Activist” was shown March 16 in the Peters Educational Center to Fresno State students, faculty, staff and members of the public.

Cynthia Lukas, director and producer of the film, said she knew of Kasturba’s work, but she didn’t realize how instrumental she was in the making of the Mahatma, a South Asian term used to refer to someone with great reverence.

“She was motivational in helping him become who he became, and I found that very fascinating, just their whole relationship, seeing where he began and she ended,” Lukas stated. “They were so enmeshed in [each] other, teaching the other, learning from the other; but her part in their marriage had never been told before, and I thought it was important for the world to know that she was so instrumental.”

Lukas further said how many insights she found within Kasturba’s life while researching for the documentary. One such example were the conditions in which the Gandhi family lived.

Facing exacerbating situations, both physical and emotional, stemming from family troubles to harsh areas of living, consisting of elements and animal disturbances.

“It only shows more of the truth than has been revealed in the past and I think it’s important for women and girls, in particular, to have a role model such as she is,” Lukas said.

Veena Howard, director of The M.K. Gandhi Center: Inner Peace and Sarvodaya and professor of philosophy at Fresno State, contributed to the film as well. A Q&A session took place after the screening of the documentary. Howard questioned how history seems to have forgotten about Kasturba’s work.

Though the film celebrates and honors the work done by Kasturba, Lukas didn’t wish to diminish the work of Mahatma himself within the film. She said that the documentary’s purpose is to show a fuller picture of both their lives, demonstrating the role of women’s involvement in nonviolent movements and the impact they have had on history as a whole.

Kathy Moua, an interim coordinator at the Cross Cultural and Gender Center for the Asian Pacific Islander and American Indian Programs and Services, said it has been a long process of collaboration between her, Howard and Lukas to plan the screening of the documentary.

“It’s so important to be able to touch every single level, to share the stories that need to be shared,” Moua said. “I think Fresno State is a very special place that showcases very special stories and so I hope that students and staff, and of course everyone can come out to these events that the CCGC does, that Dr. Veena Howard does, that the university does, because we put so much heart into it and it’s for our community.”

During the event’s post-discussion, Lukas said that she has thus far worked on two films that focused on Mahatma, and this is her first film focusing on Kasturba.

“I was focused on her teaching him about nonviolence and her being one of the first women activists of that early time,” Lukas says. “But in the second one I really want to focus on the activism she had done in her time.”

To further celebrate Women’s History Month, the CCGC and the Latina/o Faculty and Staff Association will present the Women in Higher Education webinar virtually via zoom on Thursday, March 23, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

The CCGC will also host “A Splash of Color” on Wednesday, March 29, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Thomas Building in Room 110.