Fresno varsity students seek removal of Gandhi statue, says he was deeply prejudiced against minorities
As the argument around statues and their unseemly pasts continue to dominate headlines, students at California State University in Fresno have called for the removal of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi from the campus.
A Change.org petition that has been signed over 5,000 times argued out that Gandhi — an anti-colonial nationalist who was the pioneer of the nonviolent resistance movement that led to India's independence from British rule — had been denied the Nobel Peace Prize on five separate occasions, for good reason. It said Gandhi was a believer of the caste system and actively campaigned against the Dalits — previously referred to as 'untouchables' because of their status as a lower caste in India and against the Zulu nonviolent civil rights movement in South Africa.
He also had called for the segregation of Indians from 'Kaffirs,' a derogatory term used for Blacks in African, because he viewed them to be the superior race. "A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa," he had said. "Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir."
"Gandhi is idolized worldwide as a prophet, a visionary, even a messiah," the petition argued. "However, the popular image of Gandhi is a myth. The lack of efficient methods of communication and documentation in the past allowed Gandhi to effortlessly create a convincing but false image of himself."
"Gandhi was deeply prejudiced against all minorities, from Black Africans, Jews, to low-caste Hindus. He also demonstrated a shocking lack of morality, from sleeping naked with young girls to employing nonviolence merely as a tool of political expediency." The petition also pointed out that Gandhi's statue had been removed from the Ghana University by the Ghana government in 2018 and that protests occurred at Gandhi statues in Fresno and Cerritos in 2013, in San Francisco in 2010 and 2011, in Flint, Michigan in 2010.
However, as the petition gained popularity, a counter-petition started by alumni, titled 'Keep the Gandhi statue at Fresno State', began making the rounds as well. "Are we so confident of our intellectual and moral superiority that history stops with us and there is nothing left to learn?" the petition read. "If so, may God forgive us."
"Please join me in urging the administration, faculty, staff, and students of Fresno State to preserve the history that has been created and as of this moment still stands in the Peace Garden. Allow future generations the opportunity to learn and grow from both the failures and mistakes even of our most iconic heroes and heroines."
California State University President Joseph Castro announced that the university will not be taking down the statue but thanked the students who had highlighted Gandhi's controversial past.
"We applaud those who call for a clear-eyed look at history and the individuals who shaped it," Castro said. "We also urge everyone to consider carefully the overall significance of each individual’s lasting contribution to a just and fair society. On that basis, we believe those we honor in the Fresno State Peace Garden occupy an important place in history and should continue to guide us in promoting courage, social justice and tireless efforts to make the world a better place."