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CAMPAIGNS AGAINST GANDHI STATUES


In 1987, Indian organisations in the United States set up a "Coalition for a National Memorial to
Mahatma Gandhi," with Achamma Chandersekaran as Chairman, and lobbied Congressmen and
Senators. A bill for a memorial was sponsored in 1992 by 27 Democrats and 8 Republicans in the
Senate.
On 27 July 1992, the "International Dalit Support Group" in Houston, Texas, sent a 20-page
memorandum to the sponsors of the bill and others opposing any memorial to Gandhi anywhere
in the United States. In a covering letter, Dr. Vela Annamalai, President of the Group, wrote:
"We are deadly against this memorial. To make matters clear as to why we are against
this, we are pleased to send you the enclosed material on Gandhi which speaks volumes
about this unkind and inhumane man who out and out used a sanctified racist religion to
advance his political power. In that process he hurt millions and millions of innocent,
poor, ignorant and helpless people of India for ever".
The memorandum contained quotations from Gandhi on untouchability and the caste system,
with comments distorting the context and meaning. It ignored his later denunciation of the caste
system. It ends with a section on South Africa with a few racist statements of young Gandhi. It
describes Gandhi as a "rotten anti-human," a "mentally sick man," and "a most cunning and
crafty fox in a saint's garb." Here are a few extracts from the memorandum.

"Mr. Gandhi was popularly referred to by his followers (upper caste Brahminical
Hindus) as "Mahatma" (meaning a great soul), but the enclosed document will
prove beyond a pale of doubt that he was not only not fit to be called a mahatma,
but not even fit to be called an ordinary soul. He had solely engineered to kill
millions and millions of unfortunate and helpless human beings and for them to
be in perpetual poverty and slavery simply because of his fanatical and blind love
for his anti-human religion, its tyrannical and evil caste system (SANCTIFIED
RACISM), and his untiring support for his violent upper caste men who faithfully
practice the tenants of the evil caste system."
"Gandhi was and is called No. 1 enemy of the Untouchables.
"He was also called a cut-throat. He in fact helped to hit the last nail in the coffin
of the Untouchables' future. He killed them with his 'kindness', meaning by his
sweet words..."

"Gandhi was the most violent man. He was a fanatical follower and an extreme
devotee of the Brahminical Hindu religion and its gods and goddesses, 95% of
whom portray and practice violence."
"Mr. Gandhi never believed in eradicating untouchability. In order to eradicate
untouchability, caste system first needs to be destroyed. In order to destroy caste
system, the Brahminical (Hindu) religion needs to be demolished."

"It would be difficult to find a more violent person than Gandhi in history,
because most of the violent people declared themselves as violent except Gandhi
who cheated the entire world portraying himself as a pacifist, but in fact he was a
hard-core violent person within himself when it came to protecting his evil Hindu
caste system."

This memorandum delayed action on the bill as some Senators considered the matter
controversial and required a hearing.
In 1998, the United States Congress passed a bill authorizing the Government of India to
establish a memorial to honour Gandhi on the land of the Federal Government in Washington,
DC.
The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial was installed in front of the Indian Embassy of India and was
dedicated on 16 September 2000 during the visit of Prime Minister Atul Bihari Vajpayee, in the
presence of President Clinton. The statue, designed by Gautam Pal, is a tourist site in
Washington, D.C.
There are now well over a dozen statues of Mahatma Gandhi in the United States. They were
usually proposed by Indian communities and received support from local governments or
institutions. The Indian Government provided the statues in some cases.
Violent attacks on Gandhi and Hinduism did not succeed in America where Gandhi was
respected as an inspiration to the civil rights struggle. They did not help, but hurt, efforts to
obtain wider support to the Dalit cause.
This campaign against the Gandhi might have fizzled out if G. B. Singh, a dentist and a colonel
in the United States Army, did not seek to use the opportunity to link with Dalits and Africans.
He published a book, Gandhi: the Mask of Divinity, in 2004. Five of the seven chapters were
devoted to South Africa, accusing Gandhi of racial animosity against blacks.
Nhlanhla Hlongwane, a South African journalist, published an article with the title "Behind the
Mask of Divinity" - based on the G.B. Singh's book - in This Day, Johannesburg, on 10 October
2003, soon after a Gandhi statue was unveiled in Johannesburg. His article led to other attacks on
Gandhi in the South African press. The Guardian, London, reported on them. thereby giving
them publicity in several other countries.
Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, two South African academics published the book, The South
African Gandhi: Stretcher Bearer of Empire in 2015.
All these books and articles are variations of the same theme, ignoring the evolution of Gandhi
from an ordinary human being to an exceptional person who inspired millions of people and has
often been compared to Jesus Christ.
Allegations that Gandhi was a racist began to appear on websites and on social media.

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A Pakistan website - www.pakpassion.net - carried an article by Annamalai on "The Myth of
Mahatma Gandhi" in 2006 and introduced him as "an Indian historian who did more research on
Mahatma Gandhi than anyone else in the world."
The campaign of vilification of Gandhi led to some protests against Gandhi statues. A few people
demonstrated against the statue in Johannesburg in 2003. The City Council had decided on
erecting the statue, provided most of the cost and engaged a South African sculptor. The
Government and ANC denounced the demonstrators. One person who defaced the statue was
arrested.
In 2012, the "Ambedkar Association of America" brought about twenty people to protest the
statue at the University of Michigan at Flint. They received little attention.
The petition by some academics and students in Ghana for the removal of Gandhi statute from
the University of Legon seems to have been provoked by the few quotations from young Gandhi
spread by Annamalai and GB Singh. The initiator of the petition, a former professor and a
feminist activist, does not seem to have done any research on Gandhi.
That was followed by a demonstration when a Gandhi statue was unveiled in Davis, California.
About twenty protestors were apparently brought by a Sikh group.
These protests against Gandhi statues are not too significant. Gandhi has been criticised and
misrepresented all his life by imperialists and others, and some more distortions in the same vein
will not affect he stature of Gandhi. There are already numerous Gandhi statues in about seventy
countries.
The events in Ghana suggest, however, that the Government of India should refrain from
presenting statues unless local Indian communities or peace groups or governments request
them. The Indian Council on Cultural Relations should promote institutions and programmes to
ensure greater awareness of Indian culture. India is more than Gandhi.
But this vicious and irresponsible campaign cannot be ignored as it is designed to create tension
between Africans and Indian communities in Africa and the Caribbean. Dalits, as well as Sikhs
who have been targets of violence in America, may suffer along with other Indians.
Fortunately the major Dalit organisations in India have been concentrating on the Dalit cause and
trying to obtain support in India and abroad.
The National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights was established by Dalit activists and academics
concerned with human rights. It recognised positive measures taken by the Indian Government,
while demanding further action. It obtained support of many human rights organisations in India
and abroad at the Global Conference against Racism and Caste-based Discrimination, convened
in Delhi in March 2001 in preparation for the United Nations World Conference against Racism
(Durban, 31August- 8 September 2001). The National Confederation of Dalit Organisations was

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established in 2001, with hundreds of affiliates. The International Dalit Solidarity Network,
Copenhagen, was set up around the same time with influential human rights organisations as
members.
The Indian Government was able to prevent any reference to caste in the declaration of the World
Conference, where only governments could vote, but not at the NGO forum of the conference.
The Committee of the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination and other United Nations bodies consider that caste-based discrimination, not
only in India, comes within the purview of the Convention. The Convention states in its first
Article that "racial discrimination" means any discrimination based on race, colour, descent or
national or ethnic origin.
India should withdraw its objection to discussion at the United Nations of the status of Dalits and
other groups around the world. India has a proud record on this issue - with total equality of all
citizens enshrined in the constitution and affirmative action unmatched in any other country. The
Indian Government and the Dalit organisations agree that more has to be done. Provisions of the
international convention - such as that governments should take measures to eradicate all
incitement to, or acts, of discrimination and to educate the people against prejudice - have
already been taken or should have been taken long ago.
Dalits have a right to seek international support if India fails to take further action. The problem
is no longer a purely internal matter of India. International attention can help public opinion in
India to fulfil the dreams of Ambedkar and Gandhi.