Black Lives Matter protests: Gandhi statues in UK among targets of ire
Mahatma Gandhi’s alleged views about Africans during his time in South Africa have been dredged to target his statues in the UK as protestors demand that statues of historical figures linked to racism and slavery trade be removed from public spaces.
Gandhi’s statue in Parliament Square was targeted during the Black Lives matter (BLM) demonstration on Sunday, when the word ‘racist’ was written near its plinth. On the same day, the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down in Bristol.
Now thousands of people have signed an online petition to the Leicester City Council for the removal of Gandhi’s statue in the east Midlands city with a large population of Indian origin. It was installed on the arterial Belgrave Road in 2009.
Indian circles believe that the BLM campaign is being exploited by anti-India elements based in the UK, where six Gandhi statues have been installed in five cities in recent decades, including two in London: Tavistock Square (1968) and Parliament Square (2015). There were mixed views when the statue in Parliament Square was installed.
BLM campaigners have drawn up a ‘hit-list’ of at least 78 statues and memorials across the UK that they believe should be removed, including those of Henry Dundas, who was president of the Board of Control of the East India Company from 1793 to 1801 (in Edinburgh), and of Robert Clive, first governor of the colonial Bengal Presidency (in Shropshire).
The BLM campaign has also revived the demand to remove the statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes from the Oriel College in the University of Oxford, where intense debate continues over its fate amidst growing support for its removal.
In London, mayor Sadiq Khan has ordered a review of statues and public spaces for statues and items related to slave trade. Soon after his announcement, the statue of noted slaveholder Robert Milligan was removed from outside the Museum of London Docklands.
Many Labour-controlled councils have initiated such reviews, including the Ealing Council in west London, where a consultation is being launched to rename Southall’s Havelock Road – named after Henry Havelock, general in the colonial army involved in suppressing the 1857 Uprising – as Guru Nanak Road.
Khan, said: “Our capital’s diversity is our greatest strength, yet our statues, road names and public spaces reflect a bygone era. It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored”.
“This cannot continue. We must ensure that we celebrate the achievements and diversity of all in our city, and that we commemorate those who have made London what it is – that includes questioning which legacies are being celebrated”.
“The Black Lives Matter protests have rightly brought this to the public’s attention, but it’s important that we take the right steps to work together to bring change and ensure that we can all be proud of our public landscape,” he said.