It’s Gandhi vs. Gary (or Gower) in Britain’s Little India

March 4th, 2008 - 4:38 pm ICT by admin  

London, March 4 (IANS) A ‘No-Gandhi’ campaign has sprung up in a British city following a move by its large Asian population to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
Although Leicester, home to Britain’s largest Asian population, is predicted to become Britain’s first white-minority city in 2020, some residents believe plans to install a commemorative statue should honour a local hero rather than Gandhi.

Their choice has fallen upon Gary Lineker, the former England football captain, and David Gower, the England cricketer, according to The Eastern Eye newspaper. Both sportsmen currently are television commentators.

According to the 2001 census, around 26 percent of Leicester’s population of 280,000 are of Indian origin - a reason the city is sometimes called Little India.

An initial ‘No Gandhi Statue’ online petition by residents has grown into an electronic petition with 211 signatures on the Downing Street website of the British prime minister - an e-governance tool that does not necessarily have the support of the prime minister.

Leicester resident Lee Ingram, who set up the first petition, said he felt there were figures with greater relevance to Leicester than Gandhi.

“Gandhi is a historical figure connected to India. He has no connection to English culture or the English, therefore a statue of him would be more suitably erected in India. This would be yet another symbol of segregation in Leicester and it would be something else for the Asian community.

“We have local heroes here, Lineker or the writer, Joe Orton.”

However, Gandhi has some powerful backers, including Keith Vaz, Britain’s longest serving Asian MP who represents Leicester East, Sir Richard Attenborough, who made an acclaimed film on Gandhi, and local council leader Ross Willmott.

“A statue (of Gandhi) will be an excellent symbol of his and Leicester’s commitment to diversity,” Vaz has said in an Early Day Motion, the British parliament’s own form of petitioning the government.

Willmott added: “Gandhi was a person whose teachings transcended any particular nation or faith. I would be proud to see a statue in our city that was a reminder to us all of his philosophy of peace.”

Samanwaya Parivar, the charity behind the plan to build the 12-ft bronze statue at a cost of between 15,000 and 20,000 pounds, says there can be more than one statue in Leicester.

“We have never said that there should not be any other statues in Leicester. This particular statue of Gandhi will be entirely funded by our charity as a gift to the city. It will add to the vibrant and multicultural elements of this city since Gandhi’s philosophies of truth, peace and non-violence had no boundaries.”

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