Activists in Leicester city, England are demanding the removal of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. A petition was launched on the change.org by some activists who accused the freedom fighter as being “a fascist, racist and sexual predator.”
Calls for scrapping Gandhi’s statue were also given in the past. Last year students at Manchester in hashtag #GandhiMustFall – underscored that the nationalist used to call Africans as “savages”, “uncivilized” and “dirty”, comments which were “well documented.”
The bronze sculpture was unveiled back in 2009 as a tribute to the freedom fighter in Belgrave Road of Leicester city, recognizing his non-violent resistance against British rule.
This comes at a time when racist figures and icons across England and America are being smacked as part of the Black Lives Matter protests. In Bristol, a statue of 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and thrown in a harbor. In the same way, there have been calls to dismantle statues of imperialist Cecil Rhodes and Winston Churchill.
A statue of Gandhi was also defaced outside the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, earlier this month.
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Why Gandhi’s statues are being attacked?
The recent protests across the world in the light of George Floyd killing is a wake-up call for uprooting systemic racism. Any icon or symbol which has a racist history is at the mercy to the hands of protesters.
This is not the first time Gandhi’s statues are being attacked. Across South Africa, where the nationalist leader was incubated in the resistance against colonial rule, symbols associated with the nationalist leader were sabotaged and in December 2018 a statue of the satyagrahi was sacked at Ghana University. Africans felt betrayed by the saintly figure when they came to realize the racist remarks of the nationalist leader against Africans.
But back at home people sulk at the mere mention of Gandhi being a racist. Do we also need to reflect upon the legacy of the freedom fighter?
In this background, Faisal Devji, professor at Oxford University wrote in the Scroll, “For Indians, this betrayal is renewed with each new generation, as scholars and activists discover yet another of the Mahatma’s failings. During the 1980s in the wake of second-wave feminism in India, it was his treatment of women that came under the spotlight. And in the 1990s, with the rise of caste politics in India, it was Gandhi’s views about untouchability that were questioned. In our own time, the worldwide focus on racism has unsurprisingly led him to be accused of this sin as well.”
Gandhi is an overarching figure in India for whom everyone has an opinion where his place is accepted unquestionably. Amid this does India also need a George Floyd moment to introspect upon its historical figures and address systemic violence? Not to mention the country’s own systemic caste atrocities that are yet to be addressed. In this regard, many have suggested enjoining caste issues with racial discrimination to achieve transcendental solidarity.
Meanwhile, Leicester city council said that it will consider the petition as part of a wider conversation about context, relevance, and appropriateness of street names, statues, and monuments in the city.