Gandhi statue in Leicester to be unveiled by top Indian, Briton

April 16th, 2008 - 4:42 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 16 (IANS) Two “very prominent” representatives of India and Britain will unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Leicester after city authorities gave the installation its go-ahead, local MP Keith Vaz said Wednesday. “I am delighted that the City Council has given full planning permission for the erection of this statue. It demonstrates that those have sought to create controversy over it are in a very small minority,” Vaz, MP for Leicester East, told IANS.

The 3.8 metre statue is expected to be sculpted by the end of the year. In tandem, “a search will begin to bring someone very prominent from both India and Britain to unveil the statue”, Vaz added.

Plans for the statue in a city known as Little India for its sizeable population of Indian-origin residents turned controversial after a small group of locals opposed it.

The group put up an online petition on the website of the British prime minister demanding a statue of a local hero, such as ex-England football captain Gary Lineker and DNA inventor Sir Alec Jeffreys, rather that of Gandhi, claiming India’s independence hero had no ties with Leicester.

Vaz, Britain’s longest-serving Asian MP, then wrote to Lineker who replied at the end of March saying he fully supported the campaign for a Gandhi statue “for reasons of diversity”.

“I’m particularly pleased to see that those supporting Gandhi on the Downing Street online petition have now taken the lead,” said Vaz, who has been a leading supporter of the campaign for the Gandhi statue proposed by a local charity, the Samanvaya Parivar.

The statue will be funded by the Samanvaya Parivar, a spokesperson for the Leicester City Council said, adding there was never a debate on the statue either in the city or the council.

“As far as we were concerned, it was the Samanvaya Parivar that wanted to put up the statue and finance it. Nobody ever did say Lineker and the leader of the Council thought a Gandhi statue was a very good idea,” said Deborah Reynolds.

“Leicester is a great multicultural city and great sporting city. So if someone wants to put up a Lineker statue, that’s great as well,” she added.

The statue will be put up on Orchardson Avenue, near the Golden Mile - a stretch along Belgrave Road in central Leicester that is home to scores of Indian restaurants, and sari and jewellery shops.

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