Open Letter to Houston City Council: Permanently Removal of Hermann Park Gandhi Statue

Open Letter to Houston City Council: Permanently Removal of Hermann Park Gandhi Statue

 

Executive Director Stoller
Hermann Park Conservancy
Houston, TX, USA

Regarding: Permanently Removal of Hermann Park Gandhi Statue

aprilfoolghandi-thumb-540x717This letter regards the statue of Mohandas Gandhi which was installed in Hermann Park Garden Center in 2004. The installation was shrouded with religious significance as followers of Gandhi gathered to worship his statue, as reported by India Abroad on October 3, 2004: “The ceremony was witnessed by hundreds of citizens from all walks of life amidst chanting of prayers and songs praising the father of the nation.”

The statue has been temporarily removed as the center is undergoing renovations to commemorate its 100th anniversary. While we share your delight at this momentous occasion of the park’s centennial, we are convinced that if those responsible had done the slightest due diligence in evaluating choices of historical figures to memorialize in statuary, the Gandhi statue in Hermann Park would not exist.

The City of Houston and the Houston Arts Alliance originally approved installation of the statue. We have included in this letter extensive modern scholarship showing Gandhi’s lifelong commitment to division and exploitation of other people. We believe the evidence clearly demonstrates how greatly it dishonors the august City of Houston to establish a shrine to a religious icon like Mohandas Gandhi.

In this short space, considering the complexity of the topic, we must confine ourselves to seven major reasons why Gandhi’s statue should not be in Houston or anywhere else in the world. You did not see these reasons in the Hollywood production:

1) Gandhi’s sexual exploitation of his teenage grandnieces inspires ongoing degrading treatment of South Asian women;

2) Gandhi psychologically abused his deathly sick wife, denying her access to modern medicine, which directly resulted in her death;

3) Gandhi threatened and tried bribing a Californian woman to conceal his involvement in the murder of her husband;

4) Gandhi hated black Africans and worked to racially segregate them from the rest of society;

5) Gandhi preached the Hindu caste system’s “fundamental divisions of society”;

6) Gandhi consistently spread sympathy for Adolf Hitler and suggested Jews should cooperate with the Nazi Holocaust;

7) Gandhi is a disgrace to nonviolence because of his actions to promote racism, sexism, and casteism, for which he was rejected for a Nobel Peace Prize five times.

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1) Gandhi’s sexual exploitation of his teenage grandnieces inspires ongoing degrading treatment of South Asian women — While in his 70’s (and an internationally famous figure), Gandhi  claimed to be performing “celibacy experiments” when he required his grandnieces to sleep naked with him on a nightly basis to test his control of his lusts. These grandnieces were 17-year-old Manu (who had been Gandhi’s ward since the age of 12) and 18-year-old Abha, as reported in 2010 by The Independent:

“Gandhi called for his 18-year-old grandniece Manu to join him – and sleep with him. ‘We both may be killed by the Muslims,’ he told her, ‘and must put our purity to the ultimate test, so that we know that we are offering the purest of sacrifices, and we should now both start sleeping naked…. [18-year-old] Abha, the wife of Gandhi’s grandnephew Kanu Gandhi, rejoined Gandhi’s entourage in the run-up to independence in 1947 and by the end of August he was sleeping with both Manu and Abha at the same time.” [1]

At protests of Gandhi statues throughout North America, he is being described as a “child molester.” One recent example is a protest for removal of a statue in Cerritos, CA. [2] In October 2013, women’s rights activist Nannette Ricaforte wrote: “Spiritual leaders like Gandhi procure a mass following whose reverence for him blinded them to the truth. He was a sexual predator while he espoused non-violence in fighting for the independence of India.” [3]

Ahimsa means “do not injure.” This ancient concept, which originated in India millennia before Gandhi, particularly means refraining from causing pain to any living creature. Pain, of course, can be psychological as easily as physical — indeed, it is often psychological pain which is most enduring.

Consider the enduring psychological pain suffered by the young girls injured in process of Gandhi’s so-called “celibacy tests.” Manu’s newly discovered diaries, as reported in India Today, reveal a young girl who was only 12 when Gandhi snatched her up after her mother’s death. She died “a lonely spinster at the age of 40.” The writings expose her sad loss of life as Gandhi devoured her innocence to the point of destroying her mind. As reported by India Today in June 2013:

The deep imprint the Mahatma left on Manuben’s psyche is best reflected in a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru from Morarji Desai on August 19, 1955, soon after he called on Manuben in August at the Bombay Hospital where she had been admitted for an “unknown” ailment. Desai writes: “Manu’s problem is more psychological than physiological. She appears to have despaired for life and developed allergy to all kinds of medicines.” …

Commenting on the diaries, psychoanalyst and scholar Sudhir Kakar writes: “So focused was the Mahatma on his own feelings during these experiments that I believe he may have ‘chosen’ to overlook their consequences for the women involved. Except for the flaring up of violent jealousy between the various women, we do not know the psychological effects, if any, that these experiments left on each of the women.”

Now, thanks to the recovery of Manuben’s diaries, we can assess the psychological impact the Mahatma had on his intimate companion. [4]

Indian feminist Rita Banerji founded the 50 Million Missing Campaign to raise awareness of ongoing female gendercide (infanticide or selective abortion of females) in India. The choice many South Asians make to kill a female child because it’s not male is rooted in a cultural devaluation of women. In her September 4, 2013 article, “Gandhi to Asaram: Who Empowers the Sex Crimes of ‘Gurus?’,” Banerji links crimes against women in India to the degrading treatment and view of women practiced and taught by widely idolized religious figures.

Asaram Bapu is the 74-year-old religious leader who, after the New Delhi gang-rape case in 2012, infamously said that the rape would not have happened if only victim Jyoti Singh Pandey had “taken God’s name” and “held the hand of one of the men and said, ‘I consider you my brother.’”

Asaram, who calls himself a “god-man,” was recently discovered taking a page from Gandhi’s playbook. Claiming he was “exorcising evil spirits” from a 16-year-old girl, Asaram raped her at his ashram. He was arrested for this crime on September 1. Other victims have bravely spoken out, including two sisters who say that Asaram and his son imprisoned and raped them both for years.

Banerji sees much commonality between Asaram and Gandhi. Both have millions of rabid followers who call them “Bapu” (meaning “Father”), both teach that sexual desire is “sinful” and preach abstinence, and both are frauds whose schemes and scams entrap and destroy women. Furthermore, Banerji writes:

“Both Gandhi and Asaram in hypocritical violations of their own preaching, indulged in sexual gratification of one kind or another, even when it resulted in the sexual abuse of girls and women in their flock.

“Details that continue to emerge about Asaram’s past indicate that he not only sexually abused and raped other women, but that he regarded the women in his ashram as his sexual ‘toys.’ Gandhi on the other hand would have among the younger of his female followers, some in their late teens, sleep naked with him, in his bed, at night.   He claimed that was his way of testing his ‘power’ of abstinence.   More shockingly, this was open knowledge not just among his followers, but among everyone who came in contact with him—his large fan following of politicians, activists, philosophers, and journalists—both from India and abroad. While having the girls and women sleep naked with him was in and of itself a form of sexual abuse – a privilege Gandhi exercised because of his position and stature, what actually took place in his bed remains hidden, because the women were sworn to secrecy.  Nonetheless, studying the behavior and responses of the women around him, and examining excerpts from some of their diaries, there are clear indications of sexual manipulation and exploitation.” [6]

2) Gandhi psychologically abused his deathly sick wife, denying her access to modern medicine, which directly resulted in her death — Gandhi’s abusive treatment of his wife is brutally but effectively illustrated by the story of her death when, invoking his religious faith, he denied her penicillin for her pneumonia and then weeks later hypocritically took quinine for his malaria. Russ Kick wrote the following account of that incident:

Space doesn’t permit a full exploration of Gandhi’s numerous, consequential skeletons – his racism toward blacks and whites, his betrayal of the Untouchables, his acquiescence toward the Nazis. Instead let’s focus on something more personal and, in some ways, more upsetting.

In August 1942, Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, among others, were imprisoned by the British in Aga Khan Palace, near Poona. Kasturba had poor circulation and she’d weathered several heart attacks. While detained in the palace, she developed bronchial pneumonia. One of her four sons, Devadas, wanted her to take penicillin. Gandhi refused. He was okay with her receiving traditional remedies, such as water from the Ganges, but he refused her any medicines, including this newfangled antibiotic, saying that the Almighty would have to heal her.

The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi quotes him on February 19, 1944: “If God wills it, He will pull her through.” Gandhi: A Life adds this wisdom from the Mahatma: “You cannot cure your mother now, no matter what wonder drugs you may muster. She is in God’s hands now.” Three days later, Devadas was still pushing for the penicillin, but Gandhi shot back: “Why don’t you trust God?” Kasturba died that day.

The next night, Gandhi cried out: “But how God tested my faith!” He told one of Kasturba’s doctors that the antibiotic wouldn’t have saved her and that allowing her to have it “would have meant the bankruptcy of my faith.” (Emphasis mine.)

But Gandhi’s faith wasn’t much of an obstacle a short time later when it was his ass on the line. A mere six weeks after Kasturba died, Gandhi was flattened by malaria. He stuck to an all-liquid diet as his doctors tried to convince him to take quinine. But Gandhi completely refused and died of the disease, right? No, actually, after three weeks of deterioration, he took the diabolical drug and quickly recovered. The stuff about trusting God’s will and testing faith only applied when his wife’s life hung in the balance. When he needed a drug to stave off the Grim Reaper, down the hatch it went. [7]

3) Gandhi threatened and tried bribing a Californian woman to conceal his involvement in the murder of her husband — Annette Doherty was 35 years old when she and her husband William moved to India seeking economic opportunity. William found a new job as an electrical engineer in Bombay. Annette went with him.

On November 19, 1921, William Francis Doherty was killed by a rioting mob on the streets of Bombay. His eyes were gouged out. His body was torn apart.

Annette was left a widow in a foreign land. Yet her courage was soon to be challenged even more.

Mohandas Gandhi, a popular preacher and political star, incited a race riot by his followers during a visit to India by a British overlord. Mistaking him as British, rioters killed William. To keep Annette quiet, Gandhi offered her bribes and threatened her life.

Annette was too strong to be silenced. Alone, she returned to California. Her patriotic fervor then led her to warn people about the reasons for William’s murder. In a 1929 sworn statement made to a notary public in Los Angeles County, Annette said:

“Gandhi was at the height of his popularity as a saint and political leader, and had, through his violent speeches against the British, worked his followers into a frenzy of race hatred. My husband was probably mistaken for a Britisher when he was murdered by Gandhi’s followers.”

Three days after her husband William’s murder, Gandhi, who incited the rioters, tried silencing widowed Annette to stop her revealing his involvement. First, Gandhi sent an emissary named Sarojini Naidu. Annette recounts:

“Her chief concern, however, was that the American public should never be allowed to hear of this outrage committed upon my husband; and she very frankly asked me my price for refraining from ever discussing or advertising the affair in America and from myself returning to America. Under no condition, said Mrs. Naidu, would they be willing that the American public should learn that they were killing people so promiscuously that even a white face cost a man’s life.”

Second, Gandhi met with Annette. She recounts:

“Upon this occasion of my visit with Gandhi, he repeated to me in substance what Mrs. Naidu had said, but even more emphatically stressed the point that Americans, because they were so much in sympathy with him in his political views, must on no account learn the details of the murder of my husband lest it hurt the success of his movement in America.”

Annette refused to keep quiet. She returned to America to alert her generation to Gandhi’s dark intentions to start his movement there.

4) Gandhi hated black Africans and worked to racially segregate them from the rest of society — Gandhi worked as a lawyer in South Africa for 21 years before gaining fame in India. His time in South Africa was spent promoting the racial segregation of black Africans from the rest of society. Gandhi bragged about this victory for racism in a speech given in 1896 to a Bombay, India audience, claiming:

Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness. [8]

A specific action which Gandhi considered a victory was his work for racial segregation of a post office in the South African City of Durban. The post office had two doors: one for whites and the other for upper-caste Indians and blacks. Gandhi wrote of his solution:

“In the Durban Post and telegraph offices there were separate entrances for natives and Asiatics and Europeans. We felt the indignity too much and many respectable Indians were insulted and called all sorts of names by the clerks at the counter. We petitioned the authorities to do away with the invidious distinction and they have now provided three separate entrances for natives, Asiatics, and Europeans.” [9]

Gandhi also cheered and volunteered to fight in two British colonial wars to suppress black freedom movements. In response to Gandhi’s racism, South African journalist Sentletse Diakanyo, who grew up under Apartheid, concluded in 2008: “To continue to honour and celebrate this man is to insult humanity.” [10]

Gandhi usually used the term “Kaffir” to describe black Africans. This word is a South African pejorative for blacks which is equivalent to “nigger” and has been a legally punishable offense in South Africa since 1975. It was no mistake that he used this term, which he clearly knew was offensive. For instance, at another time, Gandhi wrote: “If ‘Kaffir’ is a term of opprobrium [meaning “harsh criticism”], how much more so is Chandal [a racist term for low-caste Hindus]?” [11]

5) Gandhi preached the Hindu caste system’s “fundamental divisions of society” — South Asian civil rights champion Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, a contemporary of Gandhi, said: “If a man with God’s name on his tongue and sword under his armpit deserved the appellation of a Mahatma, then Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a Mahatma.” Regarding Gandhi’s lifelong support for the Hindu Caste System, a social structure similar to Apartheid and other segregationist models, Dr. Ambedkar also stated:

“[Gandhi] was all the time double-dealing. He conducted two papers. One in English…. In Gujarati, he conducted another paper…. If you read the two papers, you will see how Mr. Gandhi was deceiving the people. In the English paper, he posed himself as an opponent of the caste system, and of untouchability, and that he was a Democrat. But if you read his Gujarati magazine… he has been supporting the caste system and all the orthodox dogmas which have been keeping us down all through the ages….

“We want untouchability to be abolished. But we also want that we must be given equal opportunity so that we may rise to the level of the other parties…. Mr. Gandhi was totally opposed…. He wasn’t like Garrison, in the United States, who fought for the Negroes.” [12]

6) Gandhi consistently spread sympathy for Adolf Hitler and suggested Jews should cooperate with the Nazi Holocaust — On May 15, 1940, just five days after the horrific invasion of France began, Gandhi remarked on the Nazi führer’s conquest, saying: “I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed.” [13] This despite over 80,000 French who died in combat during the unprovoked invasion of their country.

On May 26, 1940, Gandhi wrote: “I do not believe Herr Hitler to be as bad as he is portrayed. He might even have been a friendly power as he may still be.” [14] He said this just two days before the Wormhoudt Massacre, a May 28, 1940 incident in which Nazi troops slaughtered 80 unarmed British and French prisoners of war.

Gandhi sent a lengthy letter directly to Adolf Hitler on December 24, 1940. His letter begins “Dear Friend,” which he explained, saying: “That I address you as a friend is no formality.” He then wrote: “We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents.” [15]

The twisted logic and perverted reasoning employed by Asaram to suggest rape victim Jyoti should have submitted to her killers is hauntingly similar to that found in Gandhi’s post-Holocaust advice to the Jewish people: “Throw yourselves off a cliff.” During a 1947 interview with George Orwell, just two years after Hitler committed suicide, Gandhi further demonstrated a further shocking disregard for the brutality of the Nazi regime, saying:

“Hitler killed five million Jews…. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” [16]

7) Gandhi is a disgrace to nonviolence because of his actions to promote racism, sexism, and casteism, for which he was rejected for a Nobel Peace Prize five times —Although he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize five times — in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and 1948 — Gandhi never received that award. In addition to his racism, one reason for this was because he supported every single major war of his lifetime and even volunteered to serve in two of them.

Citing another reason in 1937, Nobel committee advisor Professor Jacob Worm-Müller wrote: “It is significant that [Gandhi’s] well-known struggle in South Africa was on behalf of the Indians only, and not of the blacks whose living conditions were even worse.” [17] In that light, Gandhi’s struggle was to the benefit of almost no one. His life and actions harmed his grandnieces, his wife, India’s marginalized communities, the Jewish people, and the African people.

In short, Gandhi is a villain spun as a hero. If living in your city today, he would be arrested for sexual assault (at least). As we strip away Gandhi’s veneer by digging deeper into his history, however, it is obvious that villainy is his only true legacy. He openly talked about his “experiments with truth,” but the unvarnished truth is that the victims of his experiments are legion. Numbered among those victims, foremost, are his own female relatives such as his grandniece Manu and his wife Kasturba.

Consequently, we humbly ask you to reconsider the presence of the Gandhi statue in Hermann Park and encourage you to respect the memories of Gandhi’s victims by removing it permanently.

Very sincerely yours,
Organization for Minorities of India
Arvin Valmuci, Coordinator

1 “Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi’s sex life.” The Independent. April 7, 2010.
2 Economy, Randy. “Cerritos Gandhi Demonstration Attracts 75 to 100 Protestors.” Los Cerritos News. September 17, 2013. [“The protest also attracted nearly 20 high school students, many holding signs that proclaimed: ‘No Place For Gandhi In Cerritos’ and ‘Gandhi Was A Child Molester.’”]
3 Ricaforte, Nannette. “Shattered Heroes: Gandhi’s Dark Side?” GoodMenProject.com. October 18, 2013.
4 Mahurkar, Uday. “Mahatma & Manuben.” India Today. June 17, 2013.
5 “Delhi gang-rape victim equally responsible, suggests Asaram Bapu.” Economic Times. January 7, 2013.
6 Banerji, Rita. “Gandhi to Asaram: Who Empowers the Sex Crimes of ‘Gurus?’” 50 Million Missing Campaign. September 4, 2013.
7 “100 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know” by Russ Kick, pp. 167-169.
8 CWMG, Vol. 1, pp. 409-410.
9 CWMG, Vol. 1, pp. 367-368.
10 Diakanyo, Senteltse. “On Mahatma Gandhi, his pathetic racism and advancement of segregation of black people.” Mail & Guardian. October 18, 2008.
11 CWMG, Vol. 28, p. 62.
12 Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, an interview on BBC Radio, Dec. 31, 1955.
13 Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 78, p. 219.
14 Ibid., p. 253.
15 CWMG, Vol. 79, pp. 453-56
16 Louis Fischer, “The Life of Mahatma Gandhi”
17 Tønnesson, Øyvind. “Mahatma Gandhi, the Missing Laureate.” NobelPrize.org, Dec. 1, 1999.

 

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