Proposed Gandhi statue in Manchester opposed by students who say Indian leader was ‘racist’
- Gandhi statue was gift from Indian commmunity on 150th anniversary of birth
- Plan has backing of city council and Manchester cathedral
- Gandhi statue opposed by University of Manchester Student Union who say he was 'racist'
A 9ft bronze statue of Gandhi planned for the centre of Manchester has been opposed by students on the grounds that the Indian leader was a ‘racist’.
The statute of Mahatma Gandhi is due to be unveiled later this month outside Manchester Cathedral, which backed the public work of art.
It is being paid for by Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur, a spiritual movement in India, and has received the blessing of both the city council and High Commission of India.
The unveiling of the 800kg statue is planned to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Indian leader who ushered in independence from the UK for the country. It is meant to act as a focus for healing and compassion follow the Manchester Arena attack.
The head of public relations at Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur UK, Manthan Taswala, said: “Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings remain as potent today as when he first said: be the change that you want to see in this world.
“The statue of Gandhi will celebrate the universal power of his message. A statue in Manchester will ensure that the heart of our politics and democracy can all be blessed with his ethos.”
However, news of the statue brought a swift response from the University of Manchester Student Union who wrote an open letter to Manchester City Council demanding that the unveiling cancelled, together with a petition.
The petition states: “We the undersigned demand that Manchester City Council reconsider this decision on the basis of Gandhi’s well-documented anti-black racism and complicity in the British Empire’s actions in Africa.
“Gandhi referred to Africans as ‘savages’, ‘half-heathen natives’, ‘uncivilised’, ’dirty’ and ‘like animals’, to reference on a few of his vile comments.”
The open letter to the council adds: “In modern times, Gandhi is used as a propaganda tool to cover up human rights abuses by the current Indian government under Modi, which is engaging to erect Gandhi statues globally to create an image of India as an anti-imperialist state.
“We demand that Manchester City Council refuse to be complicit in this, especially given the city’s history of anti-racist action, and to stand in solidarity with Manchester’s Black and Kashmiri communities.”
A city council spokesperson said: “The statue of Gandhi has been gifted to the city of Manchester by the Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur. Although we are aware that there is some debate about Gandhi’s life, most people in the city will see the statue in the context in which it was intended – to spread a message of peace, love and harmony.”