LONDON, 8 July-2014, Kounteya Sinha/TNN: Britain’s Parliament Square — London’s version of Delhi’s Jantar Mantar – the spot which has lately become the seat for all major civil protests in UK — will now house a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the inspiration for non-violent civil rights movements around the world.
British foreign secretary William Hague and chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne made the announcement on Tuesday while visiting Gandhi Smriti in Delhi.
The memorial is located at Gandhi’s home and the site of his death on January 30, 1948.
They said “Our ambition is for the monument to be in place early next year. Once installed, the statue will provide a focal point for commemoration next summer of the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa to start the struggle for self-rule, as well as the passing of 70 years since his death in 2018, and the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2019”.
Though Gandhi used the doctrine of non-violence to drive the British out of India, several protests at Parliament Square in recent times have turned violent with clashes between protesters and police common.
It is intended that this important monument will be funded by charitable donations and sponsors. The project has the full support of the British Government, and a special advisory group, led by the UK’s Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, has been set up to support progress.
Philip Jackson, a leading British figurative sculptor, renowned for statues of the Queen Mother and Bomber Command, has been approached to take on this prestigious project.
The memorial will stand alongside those to other international leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln.
Hague said “Gandhi’s view of communal peace and resistance to division, his desire to drive India forward, and his commitment to non-violence left a legacy that is as relevant today as it was during his life.
Osborne added “As the father of the largest democracy in the world, it’s time for Gandhi to take his place in front of the mother of Parliaments. He is a figure of inspiration, not just in Britain and India, but around the world.
New Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked his memory in his inaugural speech to Parliament. I hope this new memorial will be a lasting and fitting tribute to his memory in Britain, and a permanent monument to our friendship with India”.
The Gandhi statue will be the 11th statue to be erected in Parliament square.
Britain’s Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 imposes tight restrictions on peaceful protest in Parliament Square.
After Part 3 of the 2011 Act came into force on 30th March 2012, it is now a crime to engage in a ‘prohibited activity’ in the Square where a police or local authority officer directs you not to do so.