A statue honoring famed Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi was removed from the University of Ghana’s campus in the middle of the night Tuesday, officials confirmed.
The removal follows a petition signed by university students and lecturers who decried Gandhi as “racist” and argued that African leaders should be put first, according to BBC. The statue, originally located at the campus’s recreational quad, was unveiled by India’s former president Pranab Mukherjee in 2016 but was met with much controversy amid outrage over Gandhi’s views on Africans.
“Having his statue means that we stand for everything he stands for and if he stands for these things [his alleged racism], I don’t think we should have his statue on campus,” law student Nana Adoma Asare Adei told the outlet.
Gandhi is one of the most celebrated activist figures of the 20th Century and was cheered for spearheading the non-violent resistance against British colonial rule in India. However, scholars and historians have unearthed evidence in the last several years showing the famed freedom-fighter also held some prejudiced views, including that he thought Africans were far “inferior” to Indians.
In one of his early writings during his work in South Africa, Gandhi complained about being forced to use the same separate entrances as Black South Africans, whom he referred to as “kaffirs,” a highly offensive Apartheid-era, racist slur.
“About the mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians, I must confess I feel most strongly,” he wrote in a letter in 1904.
Obadele Kambon, who heads the department of language, literature and drama at the Institute of African Studies, said the statue’s removal was an issue of “self-respect”.
“If we show that we have no respect for ourselves and look down on our own heroes and praise others who had no respect for us, then there’s an issue …,” Kambon told Agence France-Presse.
“If we indeed don’t show any self-respect for our heroes, how can the world respect us?,” he added. “This is victory for black dignity and self-respect. The campaign has paid off.”
Some have been more sympathetic of Ghandi’s life, arguing his racist views were simply a product of the time and do not outweigh his civil resistance efforts that inspired the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others leaders.
At the time, Ghana’s former government said the statue would be relocated in an effort to prevent the controversy from worsening. Two years passed before it was actually removed, however.
According to The Guardian, protesters in Malawi are now trying to prevent a Gandhi statue from being erected in the country’s second city, Blantyre.