Why University of Ghana wants 'racist' Gandhi's statue taken down

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi installed in campus of the oldest University of Ghana is at the centre of a raging controversy.

Students and teachers of University of Ghana,where a statue of Gandhi was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee during his visit to the country in June is in the face of a controversy. The students and teachers of the university have accused Gandhi of being racial.

In a petition posted on Change.org they cite specific instances from Gandhi’s writing when he was a practicing lawyer in South Africa to prove that he considered Black Africans as inferior to Indians.

The petitioners also highlight Gandhi using the word Kafirr —a racial slur used in reference to indigenous Black South Africans — too freqeuntly in his written correspondence. Here’s a sample as reproduced in the petition.

“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.” ~ Vol. I, pp. 409-410

With reference to India, studenst of University of Ghana also accuse Gandhi of backing caste system in India. It reads: “Gandhi also campaigned against the efforts of the Dalits, The Black “Untouchables” of India, and for the maintenance of the caste system right up to his death.”

The staute was installed as a symbol of frienship between India and Ghana.However, students have protested that the campus has no statues of African heroes and heroines. The Ghana government has responded to these protests and wants it relocated to “ensure it’s safety and avoid the controversy”, reported the BBC.

The Indian MEA confirmed this. “Decision has been taken by the Ghanian Foreign Ministry that instead of locating it (statue) in the university, where youth is obviously more excitable…move it to a more safer place,” Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs was quoted as saying by PTI.

“(Ghana’s) Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has been following with deep concern the acrimony generated by the recent campaign by a group of lecturers and students of the University of Ghana” for the removal of Gandhi’s statue on grounds of his alleged past racist comments, a Ghanian Foreign Ministry statement said on Wednesday.

Gandhi was moved to take up fight against Britishers when he faced racial discrimination while traveling in a train in South Africa. It is also a well known fact that civil rights activist Martin Luther King Junior and South African anti-apertheid leader Nelson Mandela drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha (Passive resistence).