Students and professors at the University of Ghana are demanding the removal of a statute of Mahatma Gandhi from their campus because of his "racist identity," and calling for statutes of "African heroes and heroines" to be erected instead.
In her online petition on change.org, Akosua Adomako Ampofo, professor of African Studies at the University of Ghana, cited several of Gandhi's writings from 1894 to 1906 in which he described the "natives of Africa" as "savages" and "raw Kaffir," while excluding them from his struggle against the "degradation inflicted by the Europeans."
"How will the historian teach and explain that Gandhi was uncharitable in his attitude towards the Black race and see that we're glorifying him by erecting a statue on our campus?" she wrote. "The same goes for the human rights lecturer, the International Law lecturer, the Political Science lecturer teaching on apartheid in South Africa."
Gandhi's statue on the university's Legon campus was a gift from the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, presented by President Pranab Mukherjee in June, when he became the first Indian president to visit Ghana.
In the first section of her #GandhiMustComeDown petition, called "Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's racist identity," Ampofo quotes six passages of his writings, including:
"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. 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."
"The Boer Government insulted the Indians by classing them with the Kaffirs."
Ampofo's petition, which had almost 1000 supporters on Tuesday afternoon, also said that "racist symbols" are being pulled down at world class universities. Earlier this year, Harvard Law School decided to drop its seal with a crest which belongs to an 18th century slaveholder, who played a key role in the school's history, but also owned slaves in Massachusetts and treated them cruelly.
It is strange that the protest movement against Gandhi, widely regarded as the embodiment of non-violence, resembles a similar campaign against statutes of Cecil Rhodes, one of the most committed Victorian-era imperialists who many see as the embodiment of colonialism. The 'Rhodes Must Fall' campaign, which started at the University of Cape Town, last year, spread to several universities around the world including Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard.
While Gandhi is put on a pedestal in India, which often makes him beyond reproach, there has always been some controversy around the freedom fighter, who cuts an extraordinary figure in the global imagination. He has been called a "racist" when it came to Africans, a "casteist" when it came to "Harijans" (Dalits) and a "sexual weirdo" for his unusual methods to attain celibacy, including sleeping naked with this own grandniece.
Last year, the hashtag #Ghandimustfall was circulated on social media in South Africa, while protestors splashed white paint on his statute in Johannesburg, and held up placards which said, "Racist Gandhi must fall".
With the statue on the Legon campus now generating controversy, #Ghandimustfall is once again in circulation on Twitter, with one user even comparing Gandhi to Hitler.
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