Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ghana academics call Gandhiji "racist", want statue removed from university campus through online petition

Pranab Mukherjee after unveiling Gandhi statue in Ghana
By Our Representative
As many as 1,012 persons have signed a rather controversial petition floated in the small western African country, Ghana, asking the authorities of the University of Ghana to remove the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, erected on the campus, accusing Gandhi of being a racist.
Floated through change.org by several academics, and addressed to members of the University of Ghana Council, the statue was unveiled on June 14, 2016 by President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee at the Recreational Quadrangle, and is the only statue of an historical personality on the University of Ghana's Legon campus.
Four of those who have signed the petition are senior academics of the University of Ghana, Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Prof Akosua Adoma Perbi, Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, and Dr Ọbádélé Kambon. They have called their petition part of #GandhiMustComeDown Movement.
Well-known Magsasay Award winning writer Arundhati Roy, well-known for her anti-Gandhi views, was the first to dig out in 2014 (click HERE) "anti-black" views of Gandhi in during his stay in South Africa, pointing towards how he "reimagined" his support to Africa's fight for freedom later.
Outlining the rationale for the removal of the statue, the petition seeks to provide citations from Gandhi's writings to illustrate this. These are:
  • Dec, 19, 1894: “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.” ~ Vol. I, p. 193
  • May 5, 1895: “In the face, too, of financial operations, the success of which many of their detractors would envy, one fails to understand the agitation which would place the operators in the same category as the half-heathen Native and confine him to Locations, and subject him to the harsher laws by which the Transvaal Kaffir is governed.” ~ Vol. I, pp. 224-225
  • May 5, 1895: “So far as the feeling has been expressed, it is to degrade the Indian to the position of the Kaffir.” ~ Vol. I, p. 229
  • Sept 26, 1896: “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” ~ Vol. I, pp. 409-410
  • May 27, 1899: “Your Petitioner has seen the Location intended to be used by the Indians. It would place them, who are undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Kaffirs, in close proximity to the latter.” ~ Vol. II, p. 270
  • June 1, 1906: “The Boer Government insulted the Indians by classing them with the Kaffirs.” ~ Vol. V, p. 59
The statue
All of them sourced from “Gandhi and South African Blacks” (http://www.gandhiserve.org/e/cwmg/cwmg.htm ), the petition notes, “The term kaffir is considered a racial slur used in reference to indigenous Black South Africans.”
It claims, “Gandhi also campaigned against the efforts of the Dalits, the Black “Untouchables” of India, and for the maintenance of the caste system right up to his death.
The petition further says, “There are currently no statues of our own heroes and heroines on our campus: We are of the view that if there should be statues on our campus, then, first and foremost, they should be of African heroes and heroines, who can serve as examples of who we are and what we have achieved as a people.”
It adds, “In a context where our youth know so little about our own history, such statues can serve as an opportunity for such learning to occur. Why should we uplift other people's 'heroes' at an African university when we haven’t lifted up our own? We consider this to be a slap in the face that undermines our struggles for autonomy, recognition and respect.”
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Click HERE to see the petition

1 comment:

PK Willey said...

Although it is an oxymoron to say one is a Gandhian scholar, I have spent over 30 years of my life studying Gandhi's thought, and seeking to understand my own relationship to the ideals he gave humanity a vision of. In the last several years there has been an unfortunate and ignorant effort to portray Gandhi as racist among other things. Gandhi evolved to the ideals that he place before humanity in an unending experiment throughout his entire life. I would like to ask:

Are the students and faculty aware that Gandhi had his house in S. Africa built according to native architecture, the Kraal, Would a racist person want anything to do with native architecture?

Are they aware that the "ambulance corp' Gandhi made with other colonialized Indians, was the only succor for wounded Zulus in the horrific Zulu War of Independence (Bambata Rebellion)? (Have they experienced personally the devastating effects of growing up under colonialism upon the psyche?) White military refused to touch them after mortally wounding them. Gandhi was grateful to be able to be of service to them. Is that a racist attitude?

Are the students aware that Gandhi and Tagore jointly called for all Indians in Africa to educate their children along with Africans?

The students should be encouraged to read Gandhi's "Story of My Experiments with Truth" and critically examine what they are hearing, and what they have learnt. They might likewise examine the structures and directions that their present education is taking them, for whose profit, and to what ends? They might find in Gandhi's work for the poor of India, solutions to the real problems of Ghana. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu made a deep study of Gandhi's life, and never came to such shallow conclusions.