Gandhi statue: Lord Desai clarifies his stand

Lord Meghnad Desai, Chair of the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust, has denied reports that he will be undertaking a fast to pressure the British government to contribute to the construction of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in London’s historic Parliament Square.

“I was only thinking of a 24 hour fast — I don’t believe in hunger strikes — to make people more aware of our task and target,” the economist peer of Indian origin told The Hindu. “I think I will go on a quiet fast at home as I am also a diabetic.”

The clarification comes in the context of a statement by Labour Member of Parliament and Chairman of the British Home Affairs Committee Keith Vaz, reported by PTI, calling upon the British government to “step in and provide support for this vital homage to one of history’s greatest leaders.” He also expressed his concern that Lord and Lady Desai were “contemplating beginning a hunger strike to raise funds for the statue.”

Industrialist and peer Lord Swraj Paul said he is in full support of the installation of a statue of Gandhi, but calls the lack of financial support from the British government for the statue “disgraceful.” “It is like a person giving someone a present and then passing on the bill for it too,” Lord Paul told The Hindu. Referring to the “fanfare” surrounding the announcement of the statue by George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Paul said it is “insulting to India that he should make such a statement and then back out.”

Lord Desai disagrees. “No statue in Parliament Square has been paid for by the government. They have all been publicly funded, so why should an exception be made for Gandhi?” he asks.

“It will look as if we cannot raise money. If the government undertakes to pay the £1 million we need for this, there will surely be questions raised about how that money could have been better used elsewhere. We don’t want any controversy over this,” he said.

According to Lord Desai, donations to meet the financial target are coming in from Indians all over the world. “As many people as possible should have ownership of the statue,” he said.

The sculptor of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue is Philip Jackson, who has created memorials to Bomber Command, the Gurkhas and the Korean War.

Early images of the bronze statue show a somewhat unusual representation of Gandhi against a simple brick wall.

Dressed in his customary dhoti, shawl and slippers, and minus the staff, Gandhi stands as if deep in thought, hands in an unconscious clasp in front of him. The statue will be ready for placing on January 15, 2015.

Campaigners for the Trust want the statue to be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 31. While the Foreign Office has reportedly passed on an invitation to Mr. Modi, through government channels, there has been no announcement of Mr. Modi’s response.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 3:48:43 PM |

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