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Friday, July 11, 2014

Gandhi statue to be erected opp to Houses of Parliament ~ and a British view of Gandhi

The news from abroad is ‘a statue of the Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi is to be erected opposite the Houses of Parliament’ … the memorial will stand in Parliament Square alongside those of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. Speaking on a trip to the Gandhi memorial in Delhi, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the statue would be a "fitting tribute" to a "great man". Gandhi studied in London for many years before leading non-violent resistance to British rule in India. Reports add that the sculptor Philip Jackson, whose works include statues of the Queen Mother and RAF Bomber Command, has been approached to take on the project - which will be paid for by charitable donations and sponsors. William Hague and George Osborne, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor, were  in Delhi for a meeting with their Indian counterparts and to see the country’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.   In a statement, the ministers said it is hoped the statue of Mr Gandhi will be paid for by charitable donations and sponsors.

Back home in the vast expanse of Marina Beach dotting the Bay of Bengal, there are heritage buildings, Educational Institutions like the Presidency College, Queen Mary’s College and many statues of Tamil poets, freedom fighters  and politicians ~ though this is not exactly the binder, one can say it is from ‘Labour Statue’ opposite Ezhilagam to ‘Gandhi Statue’ opposite to IG Office.  Incidentally,  both were sculpted by Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury. Chennai, the old Madras had its date with Indian freedom.  History has it that whenever, Mahathma Gandhi visited Madras, he used to address big patriotic meeting at Tilakar Ghat. There are places in Madras visited by Mahtma Gandhi.

In fact, Chennai  has one hospital named after the wife of Gandhiji -  Kasturba Mohandas Gandhi situate in Triplicane.  It is known as Gosha hospital, a synonym for the hospital which once catered to  women wearing  purdah.  On the sands of Marina, the landmark ~ standing on the 12-ft high pedestal,  was unveiled by Jawaharlal Nehru on 14.4.1959, in a function presided over by CM Mr.  K Kamaraj.  This statue was sculpted by Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury.  It was recently renovated too….   At this juncture,  when Gandhi statue is to be erected outside British Parliament - would it not be interesting to know their views too…………………  Here is something excerpted from Columnist Stephen Glover in Daily Mail titled ‘Sorry, but Gandhi statue in Westminster is a cheap stunt by ministers with scant knowledge of history greasing up to India ’.

Parliament Square's statue of Mahatma Gandhi may be similar to this one in Mumbai, 
India, and would be surrounded by monuments to the likes of Abraham Lincoln and David Lloyd George.  Thanks largely to Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning film about him, Mahatma Gandhi is widely regarded in this country as an inspiration and a saint about whom it is impermissible to write even the tiniest, fleeting criticism. So, I am well aware that I may be setting myself up for a spell in the stocks if I question the Government’s decision to erect a statue in Parliament Square in Central London of the father of Indian nationalism and apostle of non-violence. Here Gandhi will stand with, among others, David Lloyd George, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela (much closer to a saint, I’d say), Jan Smuts (a former prime minister of South Africa, who opposed Britain in the Second Boer War and later became an imperialist) — and Winston Churchill.

Churchill memorably — and rather disgracefully — described Gandhi in 1930 as ‘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’. Most people will prefer to associate themselves with the remarks of George Osborne, who made the announcement about the statue during a trip to India with the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. The Chancellor declared: ‘Gandhi is an inspiration to everyone in the world.’ But I take the view that the statue is a cheap and cynical stunt by ministers with scant knowledge of history, whose only interest lies in greasing up to modern Indian politicians. With little or no dignity, they shamelessly prostrate themselves in the most craven way.

Crass : The extreme cynicism of the announcement may be judged by the fact it was made a day after Mr Osborne confirmed a £250 million deal for British manufacturers to provide missiles for the Indian air force. I don’t criticise the deal. The Indians want missiles, and it’s better that we, rather than the French or Americans, should provide them. But what a crass link with Gandhi. For he was a pacifist, who would have disapproved of the Indian air force having missiles at all, as he would have disliked much about modern India.

Gandhi wanted the British to leave India, and did more than any other man to bring that about. It is to his great credit that he preached non-violence, though not all Indians who wanted to get rid of the Raj followed his example. Looking back, it seems obvious that we had to go. But that does not mean that British rule was without many virtues. Of course, the Left’s view that imperialism was unremittingly evil has been drummed into every child’s head, and these days it is hard to find anyone to say a good word for it.

We British did some bad things in India: the 1919 Amritsar massacre, when nearly 400 generally peaceful demonstrators were shot by Indian Army troops commanded by an unhinged brigadier, is one irrefutable example. But we did some things right as well. Even George Orwell, who was a great critic of Empire, conceded in the Thirties that the British had built more railways in India than existed at that time in any other Asian country. With railways came trade. In 1947, at the time of independence, India was a significant industrial power. In the later part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the British also spread the rule of law and generally enforced justice. Democratic institutions were created. We even introduced rudimentary health improvements, such as vaccination against smallpox. I wonder whether George Osborne knows that his hero Gandhi opposed this programme in the early Thirties. Vaccination, he said, was ‘a filthy process . . . little short of eating beef’. He advised smallpox victims to cure themselves with enemas, fresh air, damp sheets and a new diet.

Gandhi shouldn’t be criticised for campaigning for Indian independence, though from 1934, when the subcontinent became for all practical purposes self-governing, he was pushing at a virtually open door. What he can be soundly criticised for, however, is the Quit India campaign in 1942. Britain at that time was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the Japanese, who had taken Singapore before invading Burma, and threatened India. Although Gandhi had expressed sympathy for the British predicament in 1939, by 1942 he wanted the Raj to pack up and go. If he’d had his way, hundreds of thousands of Indians serving in the Indian Army would probably have been massacred by the Japanese. Hindu-Muslim conflict of the sort that did erupt when the British cut and ran in 1947 might have broken out on an even more disastrous scale. In fact, Gandhi failed to anticipate any inter-religious differences. In other words, he was recommending policies that were not just antithetical to Britain’s interests, but also to those of many of his countrymen. Needless to say, none of this is mentioned in Attenborough’s shallow hagiographical film. Also unexamined were his bizarre sexual beliefs. Although (perhaps because) he had powerful sexual urges, he advocated celibacy, and despised sex in any context except for procreation. To test himself, he slept alongside naked nubile women. Gandhi also believed that Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings, and even suggested that they carried some responsibility for sexual attacks on them.

His very odd beliefs in this field may explain an extraordinary broadside by the Sikh Federation (UK) on the proposal for a statue of him, which was reported in the Times of India, though I have not seen it taken up in the British media. It is not necessary to go all the way with Bhai Amrik Singh to question whether Mahatma Gandhi is the saint he is generally cracked up to be. You may say that most of the other statesmen memorialised in Parliament Square weren’t saints either, and that’s true. My point is that we should recognise he was far from perfect, and that he opposed something unreservedly, namely the Raj, which in substantial respects was a force for good, even at the risk of letting in the Japanese. Is it necessary to place this man on a podium in such a place, where in any case it is very likely he would prefer not to reside? The spirit of Jan Smuts, who embraced his former British enemies and stood by this country in World War I, is doubtless happy to stand in Parliament Square. I wonder whether Mahatma Gandhi’s will be. But what he really did and believed is of no consequence to the modern British politician in a hurry to grovel to rising Indian power and to seal a lucrative deal. Seldom was there a better illustration of the dictum that history is what we want it to be.
Dear (s) – we have heard from elder people that the legacy of British lasted far too long, even after independence – to some the Colonial ruling still remains afresh  too

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

11th July 2014.

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