A group of Ghanaian academics, students and artists is calling for the removal of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi from a university campus, saying that the leader of India’s independence movement was racist towards black people.
The statue of Gandhi, who spent 21 years (1893-1914) in South Africa and fought for the rights of Indians living there, was erected at the University of Ghana in mid-June during a visit to the country by India’s President Pranab Mukherjee.
In an online petition, professors at the university cited a series of Gandhi’s own writings during his time in South Africa to illustrate his “racist identity”.
They quoted several references in which he depicted Indians as being at a higher level than black Africans, and used the racist pejorative “kaffirs” to describe them.
One of Gandhi’s writings cited in the petition reads: “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”
Protests in South Africa
Born in 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became internationally known for his legacy of non-violent resistance and for being at the forefront of India’s independence movement after nearly two centuries of British rule.
In the eyes of millions of his compatriots, Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948, is known as the Mahatma, or “great soul”, an iconic figure who achieved political and social process through peace.
But the petition’s authors said that they could not recognise such a title for a man they accused of actively siding with British colonisers to ensure the interests of South Africa’s black population were put down during his time in the country.
“How will the historian teach and explain that Gandhi was uncharitable in his attitude towards the Black race and see that we’re glorifying him by erecting a statue on our campus?” senior lecturer Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua wrote in the campaign letter, co-signed by four other petitioners.