While statues fall across the UK, and in various cities across the world recently, almost 5000 signatures have been received in a petition to remove a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Leicester. The Gandhi statue was erected in the city in 2009.
‘Facist’, ‘racist’, and a ‘sexual predator’ are some of the terms used to describe Ghandi in the online petition. The BBC reports that last year, students from Manchester had also called for another, similar, statue of Gandhi to be taken down because of his “well-documented anti-black racism”.
Meanwhile, Labour politician Claudia Webbe said Gandhi “was part of creating a movement in the same way that Martin Luther King created a movement”. She added, “His form of peaceful protest, like Black Lives Matter, is a force for change.”
Professor of Indian history at Oxford University, Faisal Devji, said the debate to remove the statue was “absurd”. Devji said, Ghandi’s “record is actually very mixed”, but that he was known to have been “more radical and progressive than most contemporary compatriots.”
The BBC reports that according to some academics, Ghandi had had held derogatory views towards native Africans while he lived in South Africa in the late 19th Century. His grandson, who also wrote his biography, had previously said that his grandfather, was at times, “……ignorant and prejudiced about South Africa’s blacks.” The leader of the Satyagraha movement had, however, sympathised with Africans during the Boer, and other, wars.
Former MP Keith Vaz, who was at the unveiling of the statue in Leicester in 2009, called the Indian leader “one of the greatest peacemakers in history.” He has stated that he would be willing to personally defend Ghandi’s statue.
Leicester East MP Webbe, meanwhile, has described the petition as a “massive distraction” from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Umm Muhammed Umar