By Saurav Dutt,
Special to The Post
Despite Mahatma Gandhi’s stance towards Africans during his time in South Africa, his alleged duplicity towards class differentiation in Indian society or his acquiescence to fight with the British during the Boer war, one thing is certain - the path of peace that Gandhi propagated through Satyagraha to the British deserves more than a sycophantic, fawning statue in the name of ‘peace.’
William Hague and George Osborne unveiled plans for a statue of peace icon Mahatma Gandhi a day after confirming a £250m arms deal with the Indian government. The statue will be built in London’s Parliament Square.
Forget the irony that Gandhi propagated peace, not brinksmanship of arms to obliterate nations. Forget the fact that the statue will be erected outside the one time home of Winston Churchill who wished Gandhi starved to death after he acquiesced to the silent massacre of Indians during the Bengal Famine. Let’s concentrate on the symbiotic fact that the man who symbolises communal peace and resistance to division and non-violence is being symbolised by the aggregation of arms and munitions, the better to slaughter and murder scores of human lives with.
In a statement, the ministers said it is hoped that the statue of Mr Gandhi will be paid for by charitable donations and sponsors. Why bother? The £250m deal for British manufacturers to provide missiles to the Indian Air Force is being extracted from British taxpayers. Indian authorities will receive the air-to-air missiles from MBDA, a weapons maker that is a joint venture between BAE Systems, the Franco-German group Airbus and Finmeccanica of Italy. Why they ask these manufacturing partners to fund the statue out of their own lobbied pockets? Maybe Mittal enterprises could fund that with the money siphoned away from Kazakhstani slave workers working in coal mine and gas refineries?
But let’s get back to Gandhi. I’m sure he would have argued that the Indian government is soothing its conscience with the propagation of this ridiculously reasoned statue after having brokered what is effectively murder-for-hire. British ministers are still promoting the sale of the Eurofighter Typhoon jet, which is partly built in Britain. India is looking to buy 126 fighter jets and had identified the French Rafale as its preferred choice. Will they build another statute once that deal has been signed off?
It doesn’t matter how many statues the British build of Gandhi. If tomorrow the government gives the money to arms dealers in the UK instead so that they can supply India with the tools to create an armed conflict, then the arms dealers can supply the other side as well.
Gandhi defeated the British Raj by non-violent means. He was the one who said that and eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. As a Hindu he was campaigning for a return to the social ways of India, before AD 500, when women were treated and regarded as of equal value to men and there was no caste system. What puzzles me is that he should have his memory defiled by having his statue erected in one of the historically most bloodthirsty nations that ever existed, and outside a building that has, over the centuries, agreed to the destruction of more cultures and ways of life than almost any other in history. Perhaps now they will put up a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in the Lok Sabha?
British leaders did not want Gandhi becoming a martyr nor did they want him set free to mobilise a campaign of civil disobedience at a time when a Japanese invasion of India seemed imminent. The Viceroy at the time, Lord Linlithgow, sent a telegram to the war cabinet stating he was “strongly in favour of letting (Gandhi) starve to death.”
Gandhi was freed in 1944 because of fears that even if he died because of his frail condition, it might seem to the world that the British had allowed him to starve to death.
Churchill’s dislike of Gandhi was well known. After Gandhi had met the viceroy in 1931, Churchill made his notorious jibe: “It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr. 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, while he is still organising and conducting a campaign of civil disobedience, to parlay on equal terms with the representative of the Emperor-King.”
So forget about the statue Cameron and crew, and instead return the Kohinoor if you want to celebrate an arms deal. That way hypocrisy and plunder and pillage exchange hands deftly.
Saurav Dutt has written for The Guardian and The Independent. He is a painter, film producer, photographer, graphic design illustrator, and an author. Read more at his blog www.sauravdutt.com.