Gandhi has nothing to hide: Diaspora hits back

Gandhi has nothing to hide: Diaspora hits back

It is a pity and a shame that the Gandhi statue in Parliament Square is to be covered up ahead of the Black Lives Matter rally, said Lord Meghnad Desai, well-known British Indian economist and House of Lords peer.

Gandhi has nothing to hide. He is a pioneer of the struggle against imperialism and racism, who inspired Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, he said.

And, he should know. As Chair of the Gandhi Memorial Trust, he was instrumental in fundraising for the sculpture, unveiled in the iconic London square by then UK Prime Minister David Cameron alongside former Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley in 2015.

The move to cover up the statue last week came amid fears of a repeated targeting of monuments during protests by anti-racism Black Lives Matter groups going head to head with far-right groups over the weekend.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson branded it absurd and shameful? that Winston Churchill, UK's former PM and often described as a World War II hero?, had to be similarly boarded up to be protected against extremists intent on violence?.

Gandhian values

In recent weeks, there has been growing consternation among Indian diaspora groups in the UK over what they fear is a tendency to overlook the Gandhian values of peace and non-violence by some extreme factions.

An online petition calling for the removal of another life-size sculpture of the leader of the Indian freedom struggle in the ethnically diverse city of Leicester is gathering signatures with claims that he was a fascist and racist?.

Great leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and, more recently, Barack Obama are all followers of Mahatma Gandhi, said Jayu Shah, of the Friends of India Society International.

?We should resolve any issues with peace and harmony, as is the Gandhian way, which can bring equality to all people, he said.

Review

Leicester City Council said all representations will be considered as part of a wider review of the city's statues, street and building names, which follows similar initiatives being undertaken by local authorities around the UK in the wake of anti-racism protesters targeting statues with a dubious slave trading and colonial history.

Although this petition has not yet been submitted to us, these representations will be considered as part of a wider conversation about the context, relevance and appropriateness of street names, statues and monuments in the city, a city council spokesperson said.

The local MP for Leicester East, Labour's Claudia Webbe, has thrown her weight behind the statue.

Gandhi has shown us that organised peaceful resistance can be a force for change, she said.

Her predecessor and the longest-serving Global Indian MP in the House of Commons until his resignation last year, Keith Vaz, has vowed to personally protect the statue from any harm.

Gandhi's statues in Leicester and London are an inspiration for peace, harmony and non-violence. He was one of the greatest peacemakers in history, said?Vaz, who was present when the statue was unveiled in Leicester 11 years ago by then Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

If there is any attempt to remove it, I will be there to defend it personally, declared Vaz, as local councillors and residents joined him to form a socially-distanced cordon of white ribbons around the memorial in the city's famous Golden Mile this weekend.

by Aditi Khanna

*More on the debate around the UK's historic monuments, here

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