There is controversy among the lecturers of the University of Ghana, Legon over the erection and unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the campus.
While a section of them is agitating that the statue be pulled down, others insist it should stay.
Those against the erection have collected more than 1,300 signatures in less than two weeks in a petition calling for the statue to be pulled down, explaining that not only did Gandhi practise racism towards Black South Africans when he lived there from 1893 to 1914 but he also campaigned for the maintenance of the caste system in his own country.
The caste system in India is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. The system divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups.
The anti-Gandhi group quoted many of his writings in which he referred to Black South Africans as kaffirs (a highly offensive racist slur).
Championed by some senior lecturers of the university and supported by some Africans around the world, the campaign seeks to impress on the managers of the university to pull down the statue.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian lawyer who became the primary leader of India’s independence movement.
Better known as Mahatma Gandhi, he led India to independence from British rule.
Gandhi’s statue was a donation to the university by the Indian government and it was unveiled in June 2016 by the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee.
More than 60 statues of the former Indian leader are being distributed throughout the world, some of which are under attack knowledge about Gandhi’s anti-Black and racist tendencies citing reasons similar to those being given by the ‘anti-Ghandi statue group” at legon.
A research fellow at the University of Ghana, Dr ?bádélé Kambon, explained that initially the anti-Gandhi group wanted only 800 signatories but in less than two weeks over 1,400 people had appended their signatures.
He disclosed that the petition had been formally submitted to the University Council for possible action to be taken.
Dr Kambon, who read extensively about the Indian leader, said Gandhi campaigned hard in South Africa for the British to acknowledge that Indians were superior to Black people.
“One day in July this year, while I was driving on the campus, I stumbled upon it and immediately sent dozens of racist quotes by Gandhi and the response was amazing,” he said.
Lack of information
Dr Kambon expressed concern over the fact that there was a lot of “mis-education, dis-education and anti-education”, adding: “I do not blame the former vice-chancellor who consented to the erection of the statue because he probably did not know.”
“I am sure that if we knew better, we would have done better,” he said.
“This is not a thing of Ghana versus India. This is far from causing any diplomatic row,” he said, explaining that there were some Indian scholars “who have told us that what we are doing is right”.
He said there were a number of Africans, including Ghanaians, who were equally outstanding in their respective endeavours and whose statues could be erected as role models, not Gandhi’s.
Meanwhile, a former Ghana High Commissioner to India, Professor Mike Oquaye, contends that the decision to pull down Gandhi’s statue might have implications on diplomatic ties between Ghana and India.
He described as unnecessary demands for the demolition of the statue, insisting that the call was not in Ghana’s best interest.
“We must know what serves our interest best,” he added.
Professor Oquaye, a professor of Political Science and lawyer, recalled that some people in India wanted diplomatic relations with Ghana to be broken over the way “we, some time back, spited them, but caution prevailed and they kept their cool to show that they understand diplomacy”.