The Indian Media Centre of the University of Westminster on Tuesday launched a campaign to commemorate the site of a now-defunct East London restaurant where Mahatma Gandhi was “inspired” to become a total vegetarian.
It said that Gandhi had always avoided meat but, according to “newly-released” archival material, it was only after visiting “Central”, a restaurant popular with prominent vegetarians of Victorian London such as George Bernard Shaw that he decided to become a “committed” vegetarian.
The Centre has launched an online petition urging the City of London Corporation to recognise the site at 16, St Bride’s Street EC4—now a vacant office block— as of historical significance by putting up a blue plaque there.
“Sadly, ‘Central’ now stands as a vacant office block, and passers-by would be none the wiser as to the building’s historical significance, or of its importance to the international icon who once who once dined there,”a spokesperson said.
She said that, according to new research, Gandhi told The Vegetarian magazine in 1891 that it was at this very same address that he decided to convert and become a principled vegetarian, and where he bought “some Vegetarian literature among which was a copy of A Plea for Vegetarianism by H. S. Salt, after reading which I adopted Vegetarianism from principle.”
Two London locations, associated with Gandhi, already have English Heritage blue plaques---20 Baron's Court Road, Hammersmith and Fulham where he lived while studying law; and Kingsley Hall, Powis Road, Tower Hamlets famously dubbed his ‘cell’ during a visit in 1931
“However, neither site can lay a direct claim to be related to the core of a personal belief that Gandhi is perhaps most synonymous with, the essence of which he upheld and promoted throughout his life: ahimsa (nonviolence),” the Centre said citing a speech by Gandhi to the Vegetarian Society in 1931 in which he said he would never eat meat, even in the face of death:
“If anybody said that I should die if I did not take beef-tea or mutton, even under medical advice, I would prefer death,” he said.