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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Britain to unveil Gandhi's statue

Landmark gesture: Britain is honouring its one-time enemy Gandhi with a statue.

Landmark gesture: Britain is honouring its one-time enemy Gandhi with a statue.

NEW DELHI: Mahatma Gandhi, who led efforts to end British rule in India and was repeatedly imprisoned, is to be honoured with a statue outside the British Parliament which will stand alongside tributes to several colonial-era enemies.

British Finance Minister George Osborne, on a trip to New Delhi to meet the new government of Narendra Modi, wrote on Twitter that Britain would “honour his memory” with a statue in Parliament Square.

India’s independence hero will therefore rub shoulders with his one-time nemesis, British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, who once said he hoped Gandhi would die from fasting and famously derided him as a “half-naked fakir”.

The Gandhi statue will also stand alongside one of Jan Smuts, a leader of South Africa in the early 20th century who favoured racial segregation.

Gandhi was jailed by Smuts’ government for his work campaigning for the rights of downtrodden Indians, a forerunner to his more famous fight at home that would strike fear into successive British governments until independence in 1947.

“I hope this new memorial will be a lasting and fitting tribute to his memory in Britain, and a permanent monument to our friendship with India,” Osborne said in a statement.

Parliament Square is opposite the Palace of Westminster which houses the British legislature and contains statues of statesmen and other historical figures, including South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.

Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague were to meet Modi later as part of efforts to push for trade and access for Bri-tish companies to the Indian market.

Hague, who visited a memorial to Gandhi in New Delhi yesterday, described him as a “towering inspiration and a source of strength”, while Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj thanked the British government for the gesture.

The Gandhi statue fits a pattern of Britain reviving – and appearing to atone for – its colonial past in India during visits by senior figures. — AFP

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