Indian independence leader Gandhi gets London statue near nemesis Churchill

Fri Mar 13, 2015 2:27pm EDT
 
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By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will unveil a statue of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi on Saturday in London's prestigious Parliament Square, a space packed with monuments to men who defended the British Empire which Gandhi helped destroy.

In an ironic twist, Gandhi's likeness will sit close to that of Britain's former wartime leader Winston Churchill, a man who strained to thwart Indian independence and who despised Gandhi and everything he stood for.

Churchill famously called 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."

But almost seven decades after India won independence from Britain in 1947, in large part thanks to Gandhi's peaceful civil disobedience campaign, relations between the two countries are strong with both nations keen to boost economic ties.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will unveil the statue, opposite the British parliament, to mark the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa to start the struggle for self rule.

"It also marks an important, historic moment celebrating the strong bond between our two nations," Jaitley said in a statement before the unveiling.

"India and the UK share the same values and we are a partnership of equals. This lasting friendship is just one of many legacies left by Gandhi."

British Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said his country's relations with India were those that Gandhi dreamed of - as friends and equals.   Continued...