The statue of the man who fought for the freedom of India now stands boxed up at Parliament Square in London ahead of another set of planned protests, which erupted after the custodial killing of African-American George Floyd. The statue of Mahatma Gandhi was inaugurated by former Union minister Arun Jaitley in 2015. It overlooks the British Parliament but has been boarded up on the orders of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office in order to protect from being further vandalised by the ‘Black Life Matters’ protestors.
The mayor’s office wrote to India Today saying, “The statues of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi are being temporarily covered for their protection. All other statues in Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square remain under review and we will put protection in place should the need arise.”
Responding to the covering up of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue, Lord Desai, Chairman of Gandhi Memorial Statue Trust that put together the fund for the statue, said, “It is a pity and a shame that the Gandhi statue in Parliament Square is to be covered up ahead of the BLM rally. Gandhi has nothing to hide. He is a pioneer of the struggle against imperialism and racism and he inspired Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.”
Sophia, who lives in London but have origins in another country, while clicking the picture of what has become of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi told India Today TV, “Gandhi was a figure of peace. It’s fine to protest for the freedom of speech but vandalizing is not good. It’s part of history and its best to be aware of the full history.”
This voice of reason is shared by many.
In an attempt to remove Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Leicester, Derby-based Kerri Pangulier started a petition calling him a “racist and fascist”. The campaign gained over 6,000 signatures.
To counter this, former Leicester East MP Keith Vaz along with some residents and councillors of Leicester, wearing masks and maintaining social distance, surrounded the Mahatma Gandhi statue and tied white ribbons on the railing.
He said, “It is shameful that people have made threats against this statue and petitioned to have it removed. It is an iconic monument in our city – Mahatma Gandhi was an inspiration for Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. He was a peacemaker and changed the lives of millions. To accuse him of racism is deplorable. Those who attempt to do any damage to it, as has happened elsewhere, must face the full force of the law.”
It is alleged that Mahatma Gandhi thought Indians were a cut above the Africans.
A lot of this comes from the controversial book ‘The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire’ written by Desai and Vahed based on Gandhi’s stint in South Africa between 1893 to 1914.
Gandhi was an ever-evolving man and the same happened with his views by the time he left South Africa.
In an article dated December 1999 in Time Magazine, Nelson Mandela, inspired by Gandhi’s non-violent movement, wrote, “India is Gandhi’s country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries contributed to his intellectual and moral genius, and he shaped the liberation movements in both colonial theatres.”
It’s ironical that the supporters of ‘Black Life Matters,’ a movement that started in the US, are vandalising the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the man who inspired the most powerful civil rights leader of the US, Martin Luther King Jr.
The two never met but Martin Luther King Jr called Mahatma Gandhi “the guiding light of our technique of non-violent social change”.