A petition in Leicester has gained nearly 6k signatories demanding the statue of Mahatma Gandhi be removed. Recent local media update confirms the call will be considered after the petition crossed the targeted threshold and was asked to close.
The online petition held the Indian Independence leader as “a fascist, racist and sexual predator,” the BBC reports.
Faisal Devji, professor of Indian history at the Oxford University slammed the demand as “absurd.”d
“It seems almost surreal to have to list the many things Gandhi did,” Devji was quoted as saying.
Mahatma Gandhi, who is known as the Father of the Nation in India for his role in the Indian Independence movement.
This is not the first time the leader is being slammed as a racist. Most of the racist accusations come from his stint in South Africa, where he is said to have derogatory views towards the African natives.
“He’s a fallible man as all men are, but to lump him in with slave owners, that’s a bit much,” professor Devji says.
BBC notes, Gandhi’s grandson and biographer Rajmohan Gandhi previously agreed that his grandfather “at times ignorant and prejudiced about South Africa’s blacks”. Professor Devji, however, notes that Mahatma’s records are “actually very mixed” and that he actually sympathised with the Africans during the Zulu and Boer wars.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, activists are increasingly targeting every possible ‘roots’ of racism that have a history, or association with the term/practice.
In light of this trend, Britain, in particular, has seen a number of statue vandalisms of the leaders who have or said to have racist views and practices including Britain’s celebrated leaders like Winston Churchill.
Demand to remove Mahatma’s statutes join the movement that has already toppled statues of leaders Iike Winston Churchill – wartime British PM, and Edward Colston– slave trader, among others.
In 2019, Manchester students demanded a similar removal of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue on the pretext of his “vile comments” on the African Natives like “savages,” “dirty,” “uncivilized” which were “well documented throughout his earlier correspondence and writings”, the activists argued, according to the BBC.
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe said about the recent petition that it is “a massive distraction from the Black Lives Matter movement. “His form of peaceful protest, like Black Lives Matter, is a force for change,” she says.
“Gandhi too was an imperfect human being, [but] imperfect Gandhi was more radical and progressive than most contemporary compatriots,” Devji feels.
Former British Indian MP Keith Vaz defended the statue saying the petition is “dreadful” and threatens to “divide communities.”
“He was one of the greatest peacemakers in history,” Vaz said who was present while the statue was unveiled 11 years ago. “If this is not withdrawn I will certainly refer it to the police whether it incites racial hatred.”
Meanwhile, according to local media, the petition has been closed after it crossed its target of 5k, touching nearly 6k within a fortnight.
“I have received an update from Leicester City Council requesting me to close the petition and formally submit it with presenting arguments,” author of the petition Kerri Pangulier was quoted as saying.
(Mahatma Gandhi (Image via Commons/ Public Domain)
NOTE: the post has been updated in the 8th paragraph with more information.