Fresno State faces calls to remove Gandhi statue
A student launched a petition asking California State at Fresno to remove a statue of Gandhi from the campus, saying he was racist.
The university president released a statement indicating that the statue will remain.
A student is circulating an online petition for the removal of a Gandhi statue from the California State University-Fresno campus.
“I want to raise awareness about a prominent South Asian figure, Gandhi, and his racist remarks,” Akhnoor Sidhu said, local media reported, alleging that Gandhi called for the segregation of black people and was deeply prejudiced.
She states in her petition that Gandhi was prejudiced against all minorities and “displayed a shocking lack of morality.” He believed in the caste system, campaigned against civil rights efforts, and encouraged the segregation of Indians from black Africans, according to the petition.
Additionally, Sidhu says, he was refused the Nobel Peace Prize five times.
Thousands have signed to remove statues of Gandhi in the United Kingdom and in Canada, according to Sidhu, and she is asking Fresno State to take its Gandhi statue out of an area on campus called the Peace Garden.
“We should not bury our head in the sand and expect that the storm will die down," she stated.
More than 4,700 people have signed the petition so far.
A Fresno State alumnus has issued an opposing petition, arguing that “historical figures cannot be judged by our modern standards. They lived in their own worlds with their own standards, prejudices and morals. They need to be examined for the totality of their lives and work and their impact on history.”
“Erasing them or looking only at the most negative aspect of their character and making ourselves their moral superiors accomplishes nothing except to reinforce our own belief that we have figured out the solutions to all of history's greatest issues and history has nothing to teach us,” the writer concludes.
Fresno State president Joseph Castro responded to the call for the statue’s removal with a statement, saying that the individuals memorialized in the Peace Garden, including Gandhi, “embodied the spirit of peaceful and constructive activism. This transcendent quality is what the garden memorializes. It does not necessarily honor every facet of their lives.”
“We applaud those who call for a clear-eyed look at history and the individuals who shaped it. We also urge everyone to consider carefully the overall significance of each individual’s lasting contribution to a just and fair society,” Castro wrote. “On that basis, we believe those we honor in the Fresno State Peace Garden occupy an important place in history and should continue to guide us in promoting courage, social justice and tireless efforts to make the world a better place.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mariatcopeland