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Mahatma Gandhi's statue to be installed in London's Parliament Square

Tuesday, 8 July 2014 - 2:30pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

Sixty-seven years after he led India to freedom from British rule, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi will be installed in Parliament Square in London by early next year.

British Foreign Minister William Hague and Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne, who are on a visit to India, on Tuesday announced the plan for the statue of Gandhi, the inspiration for non-violent civil rights movements around the world.

"Gandhi's view of communal peace and resistance to division, his desire to drive India forward, and his commitment to non-violence left a legacy that is as relevant today as it was during his life. He remains a towering inspiration and a source of strength. We will honour him with a statue alongside those of other great leaders in Parliament Square," Hague said.

Osborne said that as the father of the largest democracy in the world, it's time for Gandhi to take his place in front of the mother of Parliaments. He is a figure of inspiration, not just in Britain and India, but around the world, he said. "New Indian Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi invoked his memory in his inaugural speech to Parliament. I hope this new memorial will be a lasting and fitting tribute to his memory in Britain, and a permanent monument to our friendship with India," Osborne said.

The Foreign Minister and the Chancellor made the announcement while visiting Gandhi Smriti, the Gandhi Memorial here on the second day of their visit.

The British High Commission in a statement said, "A monument in a location of symbolic value for our democracy is a fitting tribute to this great man, which will inspire us all to uphold his ideals and teachings ahead of important anniversaries of key moments in his extraordinary life." Gandhi has a particular connection to London, having studied there like so many of the talented young Indians it welcomes today, the statement added.

The High Commission said that the aim is to install the monument by early next year.

Once installed, the statue will provide a focal point for commemoration next summer of the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa to start the struggle for self-rule. It will also mark in 2018 the passing of 70 years since his death, and in 2019 the 150th anniversary of his birth.

It is intended that this "important monument" will be funded by charitable donations and sponsors. The project has the full support of the British Government, and a special advisory group, led by the UK's Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, has been set up to support progress.

Philip Jackson, a leading British figurative sculptor, renowned for statues of the Queen Mother and Bomber Command, has been approached to take on this prestigious project, the High Commission said. The memorial will stand alongside those to other international leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln.

The Gandhi statue will be the 11th statue to be erected in Parliament Square.

"As Chair of this special advisory group this is a poignant moment for me. My parents were born in British India with first-hand experience of partition. The effect it had on millions of people contributed to my decision to take up public service," Javid said.

He said that celebrating Mahatma Gandhi's reverence and greatness, a man who fought equally for everyone, in the form of a statue in Parliament Square is a fitting tribute. "No matter what your background, history, or religion this statue will allow people from around the world to look upon him and appreciate his endeavour and successes for humanity," he added.

The advisory panel will be chaired by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and amongst others will include Deputy Mayor Policy and Planning GLA, Lord Meghnad Desai.


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