Courtesy of the University of Ghana
Courtesy of the University of Ghana

In Accra, Ghana, students and academia demanded that the University of Ghana remove a statue of renowned Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, charging the iconic leader with being historically racist toward black people.

The statue, erected at the University in mid-June after an amicable visit from Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, quickly sparked an online petition that began circulating this month, reportedly gaining more than 1,300 supporters.

The petition contains quotes from Gandhi’s open letter to the Natal parliament in 1893, said to be evidence of his racist ideologies.

“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,” Ghandi 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.”

In the letter, petitioners highlight Gandhi’s reference to Africans as savages and also points out his expression of Indians being “dragged down” to the position of “Kaffir,” a derogatory term for black Africans.

In a followup open letter written by a University of Ghana professor, Akosua Adomako Ampofo, and co-signed by four other petitioners, Ampofo addresses her grievances.

“How will the historian teach and explain that Gandhi was uncharitable in his attitude toward the Black race and see that we’re glorifying him by erecting a statue on our campus?” she said.

The statue, gifted to the university by the Indian embassy in June, was reportedly not agreed upon by staff before being erected on campus.

In further attempts to have the statue removed, petitioners also included other “world class” institutions that were removing “racist symbols” found on their campuses.

Last year, a protester in Johannesburg vandalized a Gandhi statue in a similar demonstration, and in August, protests in Davis, California, halted the installation of a Gandhi statue in the city’s central park.

In response to the criticism, Gandhi’s granddaughter, a former member of Parliament for the African National Congress in South Africa, issued a statement, Time magazine reported.

“We ask why should we be critical of others to establish our own stature. There can be no justification for that,” she said. “By all means remove it.”

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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