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Gandhi statue unveiled in Britain


London : A statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled Friday in the southeast British city of Leicester known as Little India for its Indian-origin population.

Though locals were opposing the installation of the statue, no protest was made during the unveiling of the seven-foot icon, sitting on a five-foot plinth, of India’s independence hero.

British Home Secretary Alan Johnson joined Hindu spiritual leader Swami Satyamitranand at the unveiling of the Gandhi statue, the second such in Britain, in Belgrave Road in Leicester – home to the city’s thriving Indian business community. About 280,000 Indian-origin people live in the city.

The statue has had a rough ride since first being proposed.

Last year, a group of residents set up a ‘No Gandhi’ campaign on the British prime minister’s Downing Street e-petition website, a move that prompted supporters of the proposal to write in from as far afield as New Zealand, the US and India.

Opponents argued that Gandhi had no ties with Leicester and suggested erecting a statue of local football hero Gary Lineker instead, but the former England captain wrote to Keith Vaz, the longest-serving ethnic Indian MP in Britain, earlier this year saying he supports the Gandhi statue for reasons of diversity in Leicester.

The other Gandhi statue in Britain sits in Tavistock Park, a leafy garden in north-central London.