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Gandhi's Leicester statue to be sculpted in Kolkata

Last updated on: April 16, 2008 17:57 IST

Councilors voted across party and ethnic lines as the Leicester Council gave its approval to install Mahatma Gandhi's statue in the multicultural city, ending months of contentious campaign and debate over the merits of the issue.

The 3.8 metre statue will be sculpted in bronze in Kolkata and shipped to Leicester for unveiling at a major event.

The council planning committee met on Tuesday evening and after a presentation by officials on all aspects of the issue, the approval was given unanimously.

There was no debate at the meeting on the merits of having Gandhi's statue, Lucia Chaplin, a council spokesperson, told PTI. She added that as per rules, the statue would need to be installed within three years of the approval.

The statue is to be located off Belgrave Road, the nerve-centre of commercial and cultural activities of people of Gujarat origin. Leicester is predicted to be Britain's first white-minority city in 12 years.

Speaking after the meeting, councilor Shofiqul Chowdhury said: "It will be a proud privilege for the city of Leicester to have a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi doesn't belong to any city - he belongs to all people at all times."

Councilor Hussein Suleman said: "We are a unique city and we have a lot of different cultures and religions living together. What Mahatma Gandhi advocated sends out a very strong message around the city and also to the Indian subcontinent."

For several months, Gandhi was pitted against local heroes such as footballer Gary Lineker and DNA inventor Sir Alec Jeffreys, and supporters and opponents of Gandhi's statue debated its merits.

The cost of the Gandhi statue, 20,000 pounds, will be met by the Samanvaya Parivar, a charity organisation. The group has been asked to earmark separate funds for the maintenance of the statue.

Several online and public petitions were signed, while the campaign also reached the House of Commons in the form of an early day motion.

The campaign's lead supporter, Goa-origin Labour Member of Parliament from Leicester East Keith Vaz, expressed his delight at the council's decision, and said Gandhi's statue will be a fitting reflection of Leicester's achievements in multiculturalism.

The campaign for the statue also received the backing of Lord Richard Attenborough, better known for the Oscar-winning film, Gandhi.

Jitendra Acharya, spokesman for Samanvaya Parivar, said: "We're delighted. We are thankful to the members of the public and the MPs who have supported us. We're now looking forward to celebrating the actual opening of the statue. We'd like to involve all members of the community".

He said the statue would add to the vibrant and multicultural elements of this city "since Gandhi's philosophies of truth, peace and non-violence had no boundaries".

Leicester city council's leader councilor Ross Willmott said: "Gandhi was a person whose teachings transcended any particular nation or faith. His teaching and way of life showed us peace and non-violent protest can change the world."

This will be Gandhi's second major statue in a British city. A statue has been installed in the Tavistock Square, central London.

The south-western port city of Bristol has honoured Indian social reformer Raja Rammohan Roy in the form of a statue in a prominent location. 

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