He was a man of the people, says Phillip Jackson, the sculptor
On a sunny but cold London morning in Parliament Square, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled the long-awaited statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Saturday. He was accompanied — on a specially erected stage, surrounded by British and Indian flags — by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, British Culture Minister Sajid Javid, Amitabh Bachchan, and Lord and Lady Desai, founding trustees of the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust.
The nine-foot bronze statue of Gandhi was created by Phillip Jackson, a renowned British sculptor, and will stand in the company of Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and Abraham Lincoln, among others.
The audience, which included invited guests, as well as members of the public , broke into applause as the statue was unveiled. It was Gandhi more than anyone else who “embodies the deep and enduring connections between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest,” said Mr. Jaitley in his address. Drawing the connections between India and Britain, countries both freed from the shackles of colonialism, Mr. Jaitley paid tribute to Britain which had risen above the colonial past to recognise Gandhi’s contributions, choosing to place him on the same square as Churchill who had once described him as a “seditious, half-naked fakir.”
Mr. Cameron recalled the multi-faceted legacy for Britain of Gandhi, “the man who turned the politically unimaginable into the politically inevitable.” He said that in putting Gandhi in the famous square “we are giving him an eternal home in our country.”
Amitabh Bachchanread a selection from Gandhi’s writings on world peace.
It was Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s eloquent and moving words that drew the greatest appreciation from the audience. “We need him in India more today than we ever have,” he said. He spoke of Gandhi’s last fast against the partition of a country where he hoped Muslims and Hindus could live together, and for which he was assassinated. Ironically, Gandhi had helped bring about the freedom that now enabled people in India to contemplate building a temple to his assassin (in reference to the proposed temple to Nathuram Godse to be built in India).
The sculptor, Mr. Jackson, spoke of the qualities of Gandhi that he had hoped to represent in the statue as a “simple, thoughtful and compassionate man.” The statue had intentionally been kept on a lower plinth than most on the rest of the square, he said, to make it accessible to all. “He was a man of the people.”