Some Black Lives Matter protesters in the United Kingdom are asking that statues of Mahatma Gandhi be taken down, owing to their namesake’s supposedly problematic views on race when he was alive, Hindustan Times reported. Supporters claim that any effort to remove them stems from anti-India elements in the U.K.
The George Floyd protests and the Black Lives Matter movement have not been limited to the United States. Indeed, in the two-plus weeks that passed since Floyd died while in the custody of now-former Minneapolis police officers, massive protests have broken out in Europe and Australia, among other places, shining the light on racism in both policing and in other areas of life.
One matter that has been raised in the aftermath of Floyd’s death has been that of monuments of Confederate generals in the U.S. Protesters have been calling for their removal — or in some cases, have forcibly torn them down — with mixed results.
In the U.K., the desire to have statues of racist individuals has also drawn attention. For example, a statue of a slave trader was toppled by protesters and subsequently sank to the bottom of Bristol’s harbor. It has since been dredged up, according to BBC News.
Now Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi has become a target of that desire to not honor racists with monuments.
In London’s Parliament Square, a protester scrawled the word “racist” near the plinth of Gandhi’s statue. Over in Leicester, thousands of individuals have added their names to an online petition to have the statue removed.
NPR News reported last year on Gandhi’s purported connection to racism. Per the outlet, the Indian leader had spent some time in South Africa before his activities aimed at getting the British out of India. There, he reportedly wrote that whites should be “the predominating race.” He also was quoted as saying black people “are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”
Gandhi’s biographer, Ramachandra Guha, admitted that he was racist in his younger days, although Guha claims that Gandhi’s racial attitudes were reflective of his time. According to the biographer, Gandhi outgrew his earlier racism and was even “anti-racist.”
Hindustan Times writer Prasun Sonwalkar posited that unidentified “Indian circles” in the U.K. are capitalizing on existing anti-Indian sentiment in the country in calling for the removal of Gandhi’s statues.
In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a review of street names, statues, monuments, and other elements within the city that may honor racist individuals. Without mentioning the Gandhi statues specifically, he did note that Londoners must “ensure that we celebrate the achievements and diversity of all in our city.”