Gandhi statue unveiled in London’s Parliament Square
14 March 2015, 17:06
London - A statue of Indian independence
leader Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled on Saturday in London's prestigious
Parliament Square, a space packed mostly with monuments to men who served the
British Empire that Gandhi helped destroy.
In an ironic twist noted by the Indian
government, Gandhi's likeness now shares the same space as a statue of
Britain's former leader Winston Churchill, who tried to thwart Indian
independence and who despised Gandhi and his aims.
Churchill famously called Gandhi "a
seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in
the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal palace".
But almost seven decades after India won
independence from Britain in 1947, thanks in large part to Gandhi's peaceful
civil disobedience campaign, relations between the two countries are strong
with both keen to boost economic ties.
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
unveiled the 9-foot-tall statue opposite the British parliament, marking the
100th anniversary of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa to start the
struggle for self rule.
"It... marks an important, historic
moment celebrating the strong bond between our two nations," Jaitley said.
"India and the UK share the same
values and we are a partnership of equals. This lasting friendship is just one
of many legacies left by Gandhi."
Prime Minister David Cameron, who looked on
as Jaitley removed an orange drape from the statue, said the monument
celebrated the special friendship between the world's oldest democracy and its
"This statue is a magnificent tribute
to one of the most towering figures in the history of world politics,"
said Cameron. "Many of his teachings remain as potent today as when he
first made them."
Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan spoke, as
did Gandhi's grandson Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
The bronze statue of Gandhi, which shows
him standing up wearing a dhoti, was crafted by British sculptor Philip
Jackson. It is based on a photograph of Gandhi standing outside the offices of
the British prime minister in 1931.
The statue is lower than others on the
square, a deliberate decision made by the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust, which
raised money for the monument, to reflect the fact that Gandhi considered
himself a man of the people.
Although the square is mostly filled with
statues of former British prime ministers, Gandhi has been placed close to
monuments of former US President Abraham Lincoln and former South African
President Nelson Mandela.