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By Randy Economy
A recently vandalized statue of Hindu religious icon Mohandas Gandhi in front of a Cerritos law firm has sparked a strong reaction from a group that is demanding that the art piece not be reinstated.
Last week, members of Organization for Minorities of India sent a letter to Cerritos Mayor Bruce Barrows and other top city officials who claim that the statue of Gandhi “has no place in a progressive society.”
Arvin Valmuci, Coordinator, OFMI, told Hews Media Group-Community News that that requesting that Barrows and other city council members permanently remove of the Gandhi statue that previously was placed in front of business at the southwest corner of Carmenita Road and Alondra Boulevard.
The piece was donated by the Chugh Law Firm to the city’s “Art in Public Places” program. The Cerritos and Artesia communities are home to thousands of residents who previously lived in India and nearby Pioneer Boulevard is now called “Little India.”
Chugh Law Firm does not own the art piece.
The statue was toppled from its concrete foundation in a botched robbery on April 16, and the piece has been warehoused for repairs. Several expensive bronze and brass sculptures have been stolen in Cerritos, Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs during the past few years.
“The Cerritos Gandhi statue is an offense to progressive human values of life, liberty, and equality,” said Bhajan Singh, Director of Organization for Minorities of India.
“Why would any city idolize someone who abused his grandnieces sexually and his wife psychologically, sympathized with Hitler, and spread racial segregation in South Africa before Apartheid,” Singh said.
HMG-CN was told by Singh and other leaders of OFMI that on July 24, they sent Barrows and other Cerritos City Council members a 6-page letter citing “conciliatory letters written by Gandhi to Hitler at the height of World War II.”
“His (Gandhi’s) campaigns to segregate black Africans from Indians while working as a lawyer in South Africa, and how he refused penicillin to his sick wife but took it himself six weeks after her death,” the letter stated.
The letter also claims Gandhi forced his two grandnieces, 17-year-old Manu and 18-year-old Abha, to share his bed naked, as infamously documented by biographer Jad Adams in his 2010 book, “Gandhi: Naked Ambition.”
“The Gandhi statue honors a man who sexually abused his grandnieces in a manner which would have resulted in his arrest and imprisonment for rape if done in Cerritos today,” said Arvin Valmuci, OFMI coordinator. “Yet perhaps most shocking is how Gandhi entrenched the divisive practice of caste in South Asian society. Caste is institutionalized social tyranny destructive to a civilization of diversity and equality, but Gandhi defended segregationist caste practices by fasting unto death to defeat civil rights movements promoting intercaste dining, drinking, marriage, and social mobility. So now millions of low-caste South Asians remains trapped in an ancient system of social slavery.”
Located outside the firm, it was subject to approval by the Public Arts Committee and the City Council. Condemning the statue as propaganda used to whitewash human rights atrocities by the present Indian government, Bhajan Singh cited state funding for dozens of other statues around the world.
Several North American cities have recently seen similar efforts for removal of Gandhi statues, OFMI claims.
In 2010, OFMI approached the San Francisco Arts Commission seeking removal of a statue outside the San Francisco Ferry Terminal.
An official at Chugh Law Firm did not want to comment about the situation, and referred all calls to Cerritos City Hall.
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