Katy Daigle, New Delhi
A statue of India’s pacifist freedom fighter Mohandas K. Gandhi will be placed in London’s Parliament Square alongside other famous statesmen, including his political adversary Winston Churchill, the British government said yesterday.
Gandhi helped lead India’s campaign of civil disobedience to British colonial rule until India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947. But the white-robed pacifist was assassinated a few months later by a radical Hindu nationalist who objected to his secular vision for India.
“Gandhi remains a towering inspiration and a source of strength,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in announcing the planned statue during a visit to New Delhi yesterday, according to a statement from Britain’s Foreign Office.
While many in India and across the world still see Gandhi as the country’s greatest hero, Churchill was no great fan. Instead, Churchill — who was Britain’s prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951-55 — was reportedly disturbed by Gandhi’s “striding half naked” into the British viceroy’s palace in 1931 “to parlay on equal terms with the representative of the Emperor-King” while simultaneously conducting a resistance campaign.
He also famously derided the devout Hindu as a middling lawyer who was “posing as a fakir,” or holy man.
The Gandhi statue would also join others of famous British and foreign statesmen, including Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. The clipped green lawn of Parliament Square is also a site for demonstrations and protests next to the country’s Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
Britain hopes the new statue will be up by the summer of 2015, in time for the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer after earning his law degree in London.
“Gandhi’s view of communal peace and resistance to division, his desire to drive India forward, and his commitment to nonviolence left a legacy that is as relevant today as it was during his life,” Hague said while visiting the white Gandhi memorial building in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Hague was also meeting Tuesday with new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials, after visiting the financial capital of Mumbai on Monday. AP