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UK: Cautious response to 'Mahatma Gandhi Marg'

September 17, 2008 08:25 IST

An appeal by a US-based Gandhi Monument Council to name streets in UK towns after Mahatma Gandhi has received cautious response in Leicester, the city widely considered to be a 'Little India'.

The appeal by GMC was made to the mayors of 10 cities that include London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh and Leicester to name one of their major streets as 'Mahatma Gandhi Marg'.

However, the demand is likely to spark opposition in Leicester from a section of local residents who believes that too much is being done in the name of multiculturalism in the city.

In April, the city council had proposed to install a statue of Gandhi in Belgrave, an area mostly inhabited by Indians of Gujarat origin. But the move was opposed on the ground that Gandhi had no connection with the city.

"It is up to the citizens of Leicester to decide whether they would want this. Belgrave has been an area talked about in the past," said the city's Indian origin Lord Mayor Manjula Sood, responding to the fresh demand of GMC.

"We should not rush into this and the public must be fully consulted. If this is what people want then they should have it. We have a statue of Gandhi on the way and already have Nelson Mandela Park in the city," Sood said.

Local Councillor Patrick Kitterick, the cabinet member for regeneration, said: "We take requests for naming of roads seriously. It is much easier to name new roads rather than existing streets. I am sure we will look at this one."

The GMC demand has been made through a letter by its coordinators Gene Savoy Jr and Rajan Zed.

Savoy is the head bishop of the International Community of Christ and Zed is the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.

A 3.8 metre statue, which is reportedly being sculpted in bronze in Kolkata, will be shipped to Leicester for unveiling at a major event later this year.

As per rules, the statue will need to be installed within three years of the approval, a council spokesperson Lucia Chaplin told PTI.

The statue is to be located off Belgrave Road, the nerve centre of commercial and cultural activities of people of Gujarat origin.

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

The statue in Leicester will be Gandhi's second statue in a British city after Tavistock Square in central London.

The south-western port city of Bristol has honoured Indian social reformer Raja Rammohun Roy by putting his statue at a prominent location.

Prasun Sonwalkar in London
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