Petition Against Erecting Racist Gandhi Statue in Manchester

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When it comes to Gandhi, we cannot deny that he is of historical importance to India and to the world as a symbol of activism.

However, Gandhi has a questionable background and character to be honoured with a statue.

When Gandhi was in South Africa, in the early 1900s, he repudiated the colonialist structure that placed Indians and black Africans in the same class bracket apart from Europeans. Gandhi went on further to fight for the idea that Indians were superior to Africans and thus could not be bundled together.

In a recent book researched by Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, professors at the University of Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu Natal, uncovered in detail that Gandhi was an ardent racist who thought Africans were “Kaffirs”. Kaffir is a racial slur which was used to denigrate Africans during the colonial times. The word Kaffir is now a banned word  in South Africa because of its racial connotations.

Desai and Vahed claim that much of the halo that surrounds Gandhi today is a result of clever repackaging of his world revered legacy.

However, they are also many of Gandhi’s biographers that have shed light on his bigotry in relation to black Africans.

Below are some of the  statements he made showing nothing but contempt for the black African race:

When the British required Indians and Africans to carry passports in South Africa, Gandhi commented:

"Indians are hard working people, they should not be required to carry these things. But, black people are kaffirs, losers and they are lazy, yes, they can carry their passport but why should we do that?"

In an open letter he wrote:

"I venture to point out that both the English and the Indians spring from a common stock, called the Indo-Aryan. A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir."

He also did not approve of Indian men having relations with African women:

"Some Indians do have contacts with Kaffir women. I think such contacts are fraught with grave danger. Indians would do well to avoid them altogether"

He did not like the idea that Africans and Indians were given the same entrance at work. He actually fought for Indians to have their separate entrance away from Africans:

"We felt the indignity too much and … petitioned the authorities to do away with the invidious distinction, and they have now provided three separate entrances for natives, Asiatics and Europeans."

At a speech in Mumbai in 1896:

"Europeans in Natal wished to degrade us to the level of the raw kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness."

The revelation of Gandhi’s dark side has influenced African countries to repudiate the idea of placing the Gandhi statue on African soil. In Ghana, the president of India unveiled a statue of Gandhi at the premises of the University of Ghana in 2016. In no time, the University of Ghana erupted and petitioned the authorities to have it removed. Today the statue has been removed at the University of Ghana due to a petition which was set up by academics and students at the institution. 

Quoting the petition here is part of the argument the University of Ghana made:

We are of the view that if there should be statues on our campus, then, first and foremost, they should be of African heroes and heroines, who can serve as examples of who we are and what we have achieved as a people. In a context where our youth know so little about our own history, such statues can serve as an opportunity for such learning to occur. Why should we uplift other people's 'heroes' at an African university when we haven’t lifted up our own? We consider this to be a slap in the face that undermines our struggles for autonomy, recognition and respect.

In South Africa where Gandhi should be revered, there was also a movement which sought to see his statues brought down. This is the country where he lived for over a decade and yet the citizens today do not want to see the statue standing in their squares.

We then wonder why the Mayor and the Manchester City Council approved the erection of Gandhi’s statue when he is being rebuked by Africans due to his racist past.

Yes he fought for Indian independence in India but at the same time we cannot ignore his racist remarks against black Africans.

A statue is supposed to be of national and historical importance to remember those who contributed positively to our history in the pre-colonial, colonial and post independence periods. A statue should be able to be celebrated by a nation which remembers its past as a source of inspiration to forge ahead as a country. 

Not to mention Ghandi's questionable sexual practices and misogynistic views ; pushing the message to India that women should carry responsibility for sexual attacks upon them.

Gandhi believed Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community honour. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. Gandhi also waged a war against contraceptives, labelling Indian women who used them as whores.

Ironic that in the very same city that a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst was recently erected that the council would approve such a misjudged character to be celebrated in a similar vein. 

We thereby are requesting the Mayor of Manchester and the institution of Manchester City Council, to rescind its decision to erect the statue of Mahatma Gandhi as soon as possible.