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Historic Gandhi statue unveiled at Britain’s Parliament Square

Mahatma Gandhi

London: A historic bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled today at the Parliament Square here in a rare honour bestowed by the British government which had been a staunch adversary of the iconic leader during its colonial rule in India.

Gandhi’s 9-foot statue was unveiled jointly by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as chants of “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram”, a popular bhajan that was the Father of the nation’s favourite, reverberated in the air.

A galaxy of political leaders were present at the unveiling along with Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan and Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi at the ceremony.

Gandhi is the first Indian and the only person never to have been in a public office to be honoured with a statue at the Square. The statue stands exactly opposite Britain’s Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster and adjacent to iconic leaders like anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

Gandhi’s statue also has Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill for company, an irony given the ex-premier’s dismissive thoughts of someone he described as a “half naked fakir”.

The statue depicts the leader of the Indian national movement wrapped in a shawl to shield himself from the London cold during his last visit to the British capital in 1931.

“This statue is a magnificent tribute to one of the most towering figures in the history of world politics and by putting Mahatma Gandhi in this famous Square we are giving him an eternal home in our country,” said Cameron.

Quoting some of Gandhi’s famous words, Cameron highlighted how his teachings remain as potent today.

“This statue celebrates the incredibly special friendship between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest, as well as the universal power of Gandhi’s message,” Cameron said.

“Our ties with India have remained close throughout history and continue to go from strength to strength –- through mutual respect as equals, cooperation and trade, and of course through the one-and-a-half million Indians who do so much to make Britain the country it is today, bringing our two countries closer, to the benefit of both,” he said.

Jaitley, invited to the UK especially for the unveiling, said the statue was a tribute to the British sense of civility that they now choose to honour someone who was conventionally regarded as their adversary.

“It is a great tribute to both British liberalism and British democracy that they have now chosen Gandhi to share what is the most prominent public space in this country. It is a great day when two adversaries and contrarian viewpoints converge to appreciate each other,” Jaitley said.

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