London, October 18: Arguing that Mahatma Gandhi was a racist, students of a prestigious university based in the United Kingdom have launched a campaign against the proposed installation of a statue of the global icon in a prominent cathedral in Manchester.
The Manchester City Council authorities had approved the installation of the nine-foot bronze statue of the leader of the Indian freedom struggle outside the Manchester Cathedral.
‘Gandhi must fall’
However, the students from the University of Manchester, the second largest university in the UK in terms of student enrollment, protested the decision and launched the campaign, ‘Gandhi must fall’.
A total of 40,490 students are currently enrolled in the university.
Students’ defence for the campaign
In an open letter to the Manchester City Council, the University of Manchester Students’ Union demanded that the council should withdraw its permission to allow the sculpture of the Mahatma to be installed in the heart of the city on the basis of the Indian freedom fighter’s “well-documented” racism against blacks and “complicity” in the actions under the rule of the British Empire in Africa.
The students led by the union’s Muslim leader Sara Khan in the letter noted that Gandhi has referred to Africans as “savages” and “like animals”. He had also referred the blacks as “half-heathen natives, uncivilized and dirty”, the letter said, referring to few of the documents vile comments of Gandhi.
Given Manchester’s history of raising voice against racism and standing in solidarity with the Black community in the city, we demand that the Manchester City Council must refuse to the installation of the Gandhi sculpture, said the students, led by Khan, who is the Liberation and Access Officer of the Manchester Students’ Union.
Gandhi’s sculpture proposed to be installed next month
The Mahatma Gandhi’s statue, which is sculpted by internationally acclaimed Indian artist Ram V Sutar, is scheduled to be installed in November, coinciding with the 150th birth anniversary year of the freedom fighter.
The statue project was the brainchild of the India-based worldwide spiritual movement Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur (SRMD).
SRMD’s reaction to students’ protest
Referring to the students protest, the UK chapter of the SRMD, an apolitical organization which propagates the teachings of Gandhi across the world, in a statement said the Mahatma inspired several African leaders, including Nelson Mandela. The students protest is an extreme and limited interpretation of the teachings of the global icon of peace.