British Home Secretary to unveil Gandhi statue in ‘Little India’

June 24th, 2009 - 10:32 am ICT by IANS  

London, June 24 (IANS) British Home Secretary Alan Johnson will join Hindu spiritual leader Swami Satyamitranand at the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the city of Leicester in southeast England Friday, the local MP said Wednesday.
Keith Vaz, the longest-serving ethnic Indian MP in Britain, said the statue is to be placed in Belgrave Road - home to the city’s thriving Indian business community.

The seven-foot statue, sitting on a five-foot plinth, will be only the second statue of India’s independence hero in Britain. Large numbers of British Asians are expected to travel from all over Britain to attend the event in Leicester, a city known as Little India for its Indian-origin population of 280,000.

By 2012, it is predicted that Leicester will become the first city in Europe with a majority ethnic minority population.

Swami Satyamitranand will arrive from India especially for the unveiling and Indian High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Mukherjee will also attend, Vaz said.

“It is absolutely wonderful that the new Home Secretary has agreed to attend and to unveil the new statue at this exciting occasion. I am so proud that only the second statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the United Kingdom will be based in Leicester,” said Vaz.

“This is the most important event of the year for the British Asian community and people are travelling from all over the UK for the event. This statue is an excellent symbol of Mahatma Gandhi’s and Leicester’s commitment to diversity,” he added.

The statue has had a rough ride since first being proposed.

Last year, a group of Leicester residents set up a ‘No Gandhi’ campaign on the British prime minister’s Downing Street e-petition website, a move that prompted supporters of the proposal to write in from as far afield as New Zealand, the US and India.

Opponents argued that Gandhi had no ties with Leicester and suggested erecting a statue of local football hero Gary Lineker instead, but the former England captain wrote to Vaz earlier this year saying he supports the Gandhi statue for reasons of diversity in Leicester.

The only other Gandhi statue in Britain sits in Tavistock Park, a leafy garden in north-central London.

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