Looking back to May ’68, we find Peace News campaigning against the erection of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in London’s Tavistock Square.
Now, amongst a whole new set of controversies – including one involving the former footballer and face of Walker’s crisps, Gary Lineker – the local council has given permission for a statue of the Indian independence leader to be set up in Leicester, whose population is more than a quarter Indian in origin. The charity Samanvaya Parivar will provide the £20,000 required for the project.
Rival petitions for and against the statue on the Downing Street website attracted over 1,000 signatures each. Many residents preferred the idea of a statue of Lineker, who comes from the city. However, the football star has given his support to the Gandhi plan, adding: “Perhaps the extra materials required for my ears would make a statue too expensive.” PN staff have assessed the relative sizes of the two men’s ears, and found the question too close to call.
Peace News opposed the London statue because of the involvement of the then prime minister Harold Wilson – a supporter of the war on Vietnam – in funding and unveiling the figure. PN proposed a more fitting tribute: a Gandhi Playspace in north London.
“If it were really successful and more permanent play facilities were provided, we should then like to see Harold Wilson invited along and given the first ride on the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial See-Saw,” the then editors wrote.