India’ most well-known freedom fighter, and global independence icon, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi— better known as Mahatma Gandhi— lived in London for only three years as a law student. However, his memory will find a permanent home in the city, as Britain plans to honour the Mahatma by housing his statue at London’s Parliament Square.
Mahatma Gandhi’s statue will be the 11th at the square, which currently houses statues of leading British and foreign leaders— including legendary American President Abraham Lincoln and anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela.
Wearing scarves bearing the Indian tri-colour around their shoulders, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made the announcement on July 8, while paying homage at the Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi. The Gandhi Smriti is a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.
“Our ambition is for the monument to be in place early next year. Once installed, the statue will provide a focal point for the commemoration next summer of the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s return to India for South Africa to start the struggle for self-rule as well as the passing of 70 years since his death in 2018 and the 150th anniversary of this birth in 2009.” read the statement.
In an effort to recognize the deep historic ties with India, and pay tribute to the “father of democratic India”, Mr. Osborne also earlier tweeted: “Gandhi was father of democratic India. Can announce we’ll honour his memory with statue in front of mother of parliaments in Parliament Sq.”
Ironically, Gandhi will find a place near the famous statue of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who had famously damned him. “It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace…”
The announcement has been welcomed by Indian officials as a positive step towards strengthening historic ties and people to people relations between the two countries. Reactions in Britain, however, have been mixed— while many have welcomed it as a tribute to the non-violent movement for independence spearheaded by the leader; others have dismissed the move as a way of bolstering trade relations with the erstwhile jewel in the British crown.
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