A statue of Mahatma Gandhi will be erected near the Houses of Parliament in London, the government announced on Tuesday.
The Mahatma’s likeness will be added to a collection of statues of global icons such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln on the famous Parliament Square in Westminster.
Plans for the statue were announced by Foreign Secretary William Hague, Chancellor George Osborne and Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, all three of whom are part of a high-level UK delegation currently visiting India.
The statue will be unveiled in early 2015, a century after Mahatma Gandhi left South Africa to take up the reins of India’s Independence struggle.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, Britain’s most senior British-Asian government minister, said: “My parents were born in British India with first-hand experience of partition. The effect it had on millions of people contributed to my decision to take up public service. Celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s reverence and greatness, a man who fought equally for everyone, in the form of a statue in Parliament Square is a fitting tribute. No matter what your background, history, or religion this statue will allow people from around the world to look upon him and appreciate his endeavour and successes for humanity.”
London has a special place in the Mahatma’s life.
He first arrived in the British capital to study law in 1888. He was called to the Bar in 1891 and left for India the same year before later travelling to South Africa in 1893.
His statue on Parliament Square will become the focal point for a series of celebrations surrounding his life, including his 70th death anniversary in 2018 and 150th birth anniversary in 2019.
Not everyone however, was similarly enthused about the project, particularly as the announcement was made soon after Chancellor Osborne signed a £250 million deal to supply defence equipment to the Indian Air Force.
Social activist Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of the man best known promoting non-violence, said plans for the statue were based on business considerations.
Mr Gandhi told the Independent: “It’s a nice way to apply a soothing balm to their consciences, to raise a statute. How can anybody say they approve of this? The rush to do business with the new government is based on profits and not ethics…It’s pure business.”