Student Group Calls for Removal of Gandhi Statue in Canadian University

A campaign at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, calls for removal of Gandhi's statue, saying the Indian leader practiced “racism” and “misogyny.”


A statue of Mahatma Gandhi is at the center of debate once again, this time at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the Hindustan Times reported.

A campaign led by Kenneth Aliu, the president of Institute of African Studies Student Association (ASSA), calls for removal of Gandhi’s statue, and accuses the Indian leader of having practiced “racism” and “misogyny.” The debate came to the forefront after Aliu wrote an opinion piece for an independent weekly, Charlatan, in November last year, saying that it is “insufficient to state the obvious about Gandhi without questioning the legacy of the man we have collectively placed on a moral pedestal.”

He called for the removal of the statue, and said that the racism shown by Gandhi, who referred to Blacks as “kaffirs,” equaled “his support of an entrenched caste system” and that his “sordid ideas extended to his beliefs about women.” The opinion piece led to events in the university that debated the removal, Vice reported.

While talking of Gandhi’s “philosophy of non violence” in his article, Aliu said: “Gandhi was a racist. He utilized anti-Black racism as a weapon to bargain with the British about the subjugation of Indians living in South Africa.”

He added: “How do we commemorate the socially marginalized, whose histories have been largely effaced through the mystification of rather violent, albeit nuanced historical figures? The removal of the statue is one way of correcting that history and re-thinking the narratives we tell—especially in an institution responsible for creating critical thinkers.”

Aliu said that he started looking into this issue after protests were held at the University of Ghana in 2016 over a statue of Gandhi placed there, which the university subsequently removed. Similar debates have sprung up in the past in Grenada over a bust of Gandhi, and also California and London.

The university administration isn’t likely to accept the call for statue removal, according to the Hindustan Times. Ottawa-based Mahatma Gandhi Peace Council (MGPC) in an email response to the publication said that the university president has assured them that the statue will remain. The statue was put up on the initiative of the MGPC. It was donated by the Indian government via the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. It was unveiled on Oct. 2, on Gandhi Jayanti, in 2011.

MGPC’s president Rashmi Gupta accepted Aliu’s charge of anti-black racism against Gandhi, but added that those came before he evolved to become the Mahatma. She observed that the first statue of Gandhi in South Africa was unveiled in 1993 by anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, Nelson Mandela himself, the HT report added. Gupta also quoted Mandela as saying, “Gandhi must be forgiven those prejudices and judged in the context of the time and circumstances. We are looking here at the young Gandhi, still to become Mahatma, when he was without any human prejudice save that in favor of truth and justice.”

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