Counter-Petition for the Conservation/Preservation of the Statue of Mahatma Gandhi
THE PETITION OF THE GANDHIMUSTSTAND MOVEMENT
The Members of Council, University of Ghana
Attn: Chairman of Council Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi
September 22, 2016.
Dear Honourable Members of the University of Ghana Council,
Counter-Petition for the Conservation/Preservation of the Statue of Mahatma Gandhi
We, the undersigned, respectfully submit this petition for the preservation of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi to the esteemed Council of the University of Ghana for your consideration.
On September 12, 2016, a five-member GandhiMustComeDown Movement, made up of Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Prof. Akosua Adoma Perbi, Dr. Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, Dr. Obádélé Kambon and Mr. Mantse Aryeequaye, presented a Petition to the Council of University of Ghana requesting the demolition of the newly erected statue of Mahatma Gandhi of India on the Legon campus of the University.
We, in this Counter-Petition, are persuaded that the reasons advanced by the GandhiMustComeDown Movement are not sound, bereft of comprehensive examination of the entire history of Gandhi’s political life, mischievous and wrong. Granting their request would, therefore, negatively affect the image and standing of the University of Ghana. Furthermore, it could severely harm diplomatic ties between India and Ghana.
In what follows, we take a critical look at the GandhiMustComeDown Petition from a perspective of its structure, content, developmental and ideological direction. In so doing, we observe that the GandhiMustComeDown Petition is neither inspired nor driven by any domestic-initiated process on the continent of Africa towards the liberation of the African economy and political management from the stranglehold of Western-led international finance institutions.
We observe further that the Petition originates from Western processes of removing the constant reminders of the shame of the West’s enslavement of Black Africans from their public institutions.
We hold here that these Western processes are the result of African pressures mounted by the Black African Reparation Movement across the world for reparation in atonement of the pain inflicted on Black Africans for more than five hundred years.
We view this guilt in the Western conscience as an occasion to escalate such pressures to the level of putting the mentioned stranglehold on African existence in greater stress for its ultimate disentanglement for the total freedom of Africans all over the world. To this end, there is the need to cultivate the Spirit of Resistance such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah acquired from the Gandhian practice in recent memory for the successful construct of Positive Action in Africa.
Dear Council Members, it is from this perspective that we hold that a counter-movement of GandhiMustStand to the ill-informed, ill-motivated and myopic GandhiMustComeDown Movement should be put in place to better project the African Personality through actions directed at fundamental African Liberation and Freedom.
We, thus, pray the Council of the University of Ghana to stand firm by its decision! Gandhi Must Stand!
Observations and Reactions
In its structure, the Petition is preceded by an introduction and followed by five sections. The sections are: (1) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s racist identity (2) There are currently no statues of our own heroes and heroines on our campus (3) Removal of racist symbols from “world-class” universities (4) Protests against statues of Gandhi throughout the world (5) There was no consultation about the placing of the statue. Let’s patiently pick each of them one after the other for critical examination and comprehension.
Beginning with the Introduction, the Petition states June 14 2016 as the date on which the Gandhi statue was erected at the Recreational Quadrangle which is between the Balm Library and the N2 lecture hall. It informs us further that it is the only statue of a historical personality on Legon campus. It goes on to claim that shortly after the erection members of the University community and the general public made calls for its removal. The GandhiMustFall Movement of five associates is thus formed to ensure that the statue comes down.
It goes on, therefore, to state its first reason as Gandhi’s racist identity. To establish this, the Petitioners quote isolated statements from Vol. I, Vol. II and Vol.V of Gandhi’s works in 1895 and 1896. In general, the quoted statements are an objection to the European authorities’ policy of locating Indians close to Black Africans and subjecting them to the harsher laws exacted on the Blacks. It is clear that the statements, written by Gandhi in his youth, portray Indians as being of a superior type over Blacks whom they refer to by the derogatory name of ‘Kaffir’.
It is most strange that the GandhiMustComeDown Petitioners do not examine Gandhi’s actions and pronouncements beyond 1920. If we fast forward to the 1930s, we find, as Gussae Hamror writes in connection with Gandhi: "he himself (Gandhi) wrote about his many flaws in South Africa in his autobiography:-) What you will find in Ghandi's legacy is not righteousness, but honesty, self-critique and growth, combined with a rare dismissal of personal material comfort and ambitions. It will be a big mistake for humanists to vilify him. We actually need more folks today like Ghandi who are brave enough to criticize themselves as openly and repent as he did.”
In October 1931, Gandhi visited Oxford and had this to say. In conversation with students and faculty, he said: "England has got successful competitors in America, Japan, France, and Germany. It has competitors in the handful of mills in India, and as there has been an awakening in India, even so there will be an awakening in South Africa with its vastly richer resources -- natural, mineral and human. The mighty English look quite pigmies before the mighty races of Africa. They are noble savages after all, you will say. They are certainly noble, but no savages and in the course of a few years the Western nations may cease to find in Africa a dumping ground for their wares." Gandhi, speaking at Oxford, October 24, 1931 (CWMG, Volume 48, p.225).
Gandhi, before his audience, in 1931, refers to Africans as ‘rich’, ‘noble’ and ‘no savages’!
In 1939, in a correspondence with S.S. Tema, member of the African Congress, Gandhi said "You, on the other hand, are the sons of the soil who are being robbed of your inheritance. You are bound to resist that. Yours is a far bigger issue." Gandhi to Rev S.S. Tema, member of the African Congress, January 1, 1939 (CWMG, Volume 68, pp. 272-273.). Gandhi endorsed Africans’ legitimate right to self-determination.
Furthermore: A deputation from South Africa led by Sorabji Rustomji came to India in 1946 (CWMG, Vol 83, pp. 352-354). It was protesting against racial legislation in South Africa. A member of the delegation asked Gandhi: "You have said we should associate with Zulus and Bantus. Does it not mean joining them in a common anti-white front?" Gandhi replied: "Yes, I have said that we should associate with the Zulus, Bantus, etc!!!” This was in 1946!
In his autobiography of 1957, he narrates: ‘I considered myself a citizen of Natal, being intimately connected with it. So I wrote to the Governor, expressing my readiness, if necessary, to form an Indian Ambulance Corps. He replied immediately accepting the offer. I had not expected such prompt acceptance.... I went to Durban and appealed for men. A big contingent was not necessary. We were a party of twenty-four, of whom, besides me, four were Gujaratis. The rest were ex-indentured men from South India, excepting one who was a free Pagan. In order to give me a status and to facilitate work, as also in accordance with the existing convention, the Chief Medical Officer appointed me to the temporary rank of Sergeant Major and three men selected by me to the rank of sergeants and one to that of corporal....At any rate my heart was with the Zulus, and I was delighted, on reaching headquarters, to hear that our main work was to be the nursing of the wounded Zulus. The Medical Officer in charge welcomed us. He said the white people were not willing nurses for the wounded Zulus, that their wounds were festering, and that he was at his word's end. “- (The Story of My Experiment with Truth, An Autobiography of Mahatma K. Ghandi, 1957, Beulahland Publications, page 313-314).
Evidently, if the GandhiMustComeDown group stepped out of 1906, freed themselves from the ancient captivity, they would appreciate the non-racist, universalist Gandhi had become in his later years! Indeed, meticulous research reveals that Gandhi was, in his later life, not the racist he's made to be. Admittedly, certain earlier pronouncements of his were despicable, but he ‘tidied up’, indeed, changed with time. And, indisputable evidence abound.
In our consideration such common failing among peoples must not be made absolute in a person unless it feeds into a conscious policy formulation to enslave a people so derogatorily regarded. Nevertheless, claims that Indians, perhaps on the prodding of Gandhi, do not want Blacks beside them are certainly false from what we have demonstrated above.
In its second reason, the GandhiMustComeDown petition states a view that should there be a need to build statues and that they must be of African heroes so that such statutes could serve as an opportunity to our youth to learn our history. The Petitioners, one of whom is a history lecturer (Prof. Akosua Adoma Perbi of the History Department), lament that ‘our youth know so little about our own history’. They question the rationality in uplifting other people’s heroes at our University ‘when we haven’t lifted our own’. In reaction, they find it fitting to make a statue of a former member of the Council - Mr. Sam Aboah.
We believe that the University, when it finds it apposite, can honour any citizens who deserve it. But, that cannot be done at the expense of Gandhi. Gandhi was a quintessential intellectual and political theorist who, in the course of more than two decades called for demonopolization of the state to sub-national jurisdictions, an idea that has captured the imagination of the modern world. He pointed to the state as a corrupting force which degrades the individual’s sense of moral responsibility. He calls for something of a direct democracy.
Today’s Occupy Movement is founded on the ideas of Gandhi. Our students have a lot to learn from Gandhi!
In Ghana’s decolonization struggle, Nkrumah depended heavily on the immortal legacy of Gandhi. In this regard Nkrumah writes: ‘In ''What I Mean by Positive Action'', I called for non-violent methods of struggle. We had no guns. But if even we had, the circumstances were such that non-violent alternatives were open to us, and it was necessary to try them before resorting to other means. In those days, when we talked of tactics of non-violence we meant the kind of tactics employed by Ghandhi in India. 'Violence' was to pick up the gun. 'Non-violence' implied practically any other means short of picking up a gun.' (Kwame Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path, 1973, p. 86)
Further, Nkrumah states: 'The main purpose of the All-African People's Conference to be held in Accra, Ghana, in December, 1958, will be to formulate concrete plans and work out the Gandhian tactics and strategy of the African Non-Violent Revolution in relation to:-
1. Colonialism and Imperialism.
2. Racialism and Discriminatory Laws and Practices.
3. Tribalism and Religious Separatism.
4. The position of Chieftaincy under:
(a). Colonial Rule
(b). A Free Democratic Society’
(Kwame Nkrumah, op. cit., p.132)
Gandhi then provides us with a powerful tool on non-violent struggle. It guided peoples’ struggles historically and globally.
The Petition’s third reason is a record of attempts in various institutions in the United States, Europe and, by extension, South Africa to clean up the shame of Black slavery in terms of persons and institutions that defended and promoted it. The Petition’s long catalogue of such institutions, mainly in states and cities in the U.S., shows the various attempts. The South African attempts and acts are the logical extension of dealing with the memory of slave advocates and beneficiaries. By this reason the Petitioners merely seek to be part of the Western concern.
What we find curious about this GandhiMustComeDown Petition on this issue of racism is that this reason for asking for the demolition of Gandhi’s statue is not based on any Ghanaian or African urgency. It is loudly predicated on the Petition’s concern with Western nations’ concern with redressing their shame over the over five hundred years of brutal acts of annihilation, subjugation and exploitation of the Black person. The rhyming theme of this section is Western institutions seeking to obliterate the shame of their origins from the blood and toils of Black slaves. Cecil Rhodes is part of that standing shame. How do GandhiMustComeDown Petitioners find space in that shame to address it? It is mind boggling, to say the least.
The Petitioners are only trying to force their way into Western efforts to clean up through finding a false accomplice in the person of Mahatma Gandhi. They neglect Africa’s internal problems for which they have no solutions and rather seek comfort in distractions born of Western concerns to hide their deficiencies. This is the shame they must address. Not the West’s.
In their fourth reason, they try to rally support for the clean-up of racist shibboleths with this pointer that the Western concern is a world concern. They add to the American states and cities others in the United Kingdom as well as South Africa. That’s all. The rest of the world in Asia, Australia and South America are quietly glossed over without mention as part of the world dusting off the tag of Black slave dealers, exploiters and killers. This skewedness is as serious as it is disconcerting.
For its fifth reason, the GandhiMustComeDown Petition raises issue with administrative procedures that were claimed to have been flouted with only the former Vice-Chancellor as the main and only culprit for taking the sole decision of allowing the erection of the statue. In this particular respect, the Petitioners are particularly and passionately interested in finding out how much money was harvested from the deal. This can hardly be a reason to bring down the statue. Would they retract the petition if they had been told that something flowed from it? Why?
Finally, we have taken note of allegations of Gandhi’s lifetime support for the caste system in India. We pray the Council of the University to take Gandhi’s own views on the caste system which he condemns as follows in 1931: ‘I do not believe in caste in the modern sense. It is an excrescence and a handicap on progress. Nor do I believe in inequalities between human beings. We are absolutely equal. But equality is of souls and not bodies … We have to realize equality in the midst of this apparent inequality. Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and man. Thus caste, in so far as it connotes distinctions in status, is an evil’(http://www.academia.edu/326347/ ).
We are also of the view that in the spirit of international cooperation, the statue must stay. Professor Mike Ocquaye, a reputable political scientist, has warned of possible break in diplomatic ties between Ghana and India should the statue be demolished. Prof Ocquaye, Ghana’s former High Commissioner to India states: “It will be most unnecessary, most uncalled for and not in the supreme interest of Ghanaians and we must know what serves our interest best. Some people in India wanted diplomatic relations to be broken in Ghana over the way we sometime back spited them, but caution prevailed and they kept their cool to show that they understand diplomacy and the ups and downs of international relations and today the relationship is a bit better and we look forward to it being better still.” Mutual cooperation and peaceful co-existence require that Gandhian stand!
Dear Council Members, Gandhi oppressed and exploited no Black African. The unfortunate remarks cited against him in his youth are a general failure of peoples with a false sense of their superiority and lacking in mature consciousness. There is copious evidence to show that Gandhi criticized himself for his inadequacies. It takes heroes to openly engage in auto-criticisms! But, he has never regretted for his policy of non-violence or the Spirit of Resistance! That is what his statue must inspire in us to seek the fall of imperialist neo-colonialist capitalism but not the fall of his inspiring statue. GANDHI MUST STAND!
The University of Ghana, as she strives for world class status, has done herself a great service by erecting the monument in honour of Gandhi. Legon is, by this, championing the theory and praxis of peaceful, non-violent restructuring of society associated with Gandhi. Bravo.
We thank you for your attention!
Lang T. K. A. Nubuor (Director, Centre for Consciencist Studies and Analyses)
Isaac Winful Dadzie (Research Analyst and Member of the Convention People’s Party)
Dr. E. Tweneboah Senzu (Head of Economic Research & Analysis - Africa, Bastiat Institute Ghana)
Mr. Abraham Allotey (Business Consultant)
Dr Kojo Opoku Aidoo (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, Legon)
This petition will be delivered to:
Chairman of Council/Government Appointee
Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi
University of Ghana
Members of the University of Ghana Council