The expectation that New Zealand’s biggest city Auckland – the city of sails – should honour Gandhi the apostle of peace and non-violence, with a public statue has been latent for quite some time.
These expectations have largely been bolstered by the fact that Auckland is New Zealand’s largest population centre where the majority of the Kiwi-Indian population resides in the country and unveiling of such a statue will not only be the greatest tribute to a well known global icon but also further accentuating the people to people linkages between the New Zealand and India.
However, over the years, it seems that the question of when has slowly become a question of, will the Auckland city ever honour Gandhi’s legacy with a public statue. Intermittently though, we continue to hear such calls or take note of some behind the scene community and diplomatic engagements, to realise the dream of the inauguration of a Gandhi statue in the country’s biggest urban centre.
Recently, National Party’s Kiwi-Indian MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar has once again given a voice to this long underlying latent aspiration, on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by calling the Auckland Council to honour Gandhi’s legacy by installing a public statue.
National Party's Kiwi Indian MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar (Photo/Doug Sherring for NZ Herald)
“Mahatma Gandhi is one of the great leaders of the 20th century, and my petition calls for a statue to honour him in one of Auckland’s prominent public spaces,” a press release from the office of Dr Parmar on Wednesday, October 2, said.
Although this is not an altogether new lobbying effort for a Gandhi statue in Auckland, Dr Parmar’s leadership on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is much appreciated.
Notably, the Hon Consul of India in Auckland, Bhav Dhillon, has been speaking with at least a few local Auckland community boards about the underlying aspirations within the Kiwi-Indian community of having a statue of Gandhi installed in Auckland’s public space.
Speaking to the Indian Weekender, Mr Dhillon acknowledged the deep admiration of Gandhi by the people and political leaders of New Zealand.
“We all agree about the universal appeal of Gandhi Ji’s philosophy and ideas and people, and the political leadership of New Zealand has always been at the forefront of honouring India’s global icon,” Mr Dhillon said.
“Only recently, in the lead up to the celebrations of 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff had released a New Zealand Post stamp on Gandhi.”
“We have quietly been in some encouraging conversations with several Auckland community boards where a sizeable Kiwi-Indian population resides about the prospects of installing a statue of Gandhi to honour the apostle of peace and non-violence,” Mr Dhillon said.
It is noteworthy that such demands of public aspirations are often met with a chance combination of several factors including active lobbying by the community and their leaders, diplomatic engagement involving communities, and presence of public and political goodwill towards the cause.
Indeed, New Zealanders has always been kind and receptive to the values and philosophies of Gandhi, particularly the principles of equality, and non-violence in every form of human interaction. Recently, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered a keynote address at a commemorative event hosted by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in the United Nations whereby she generously espoused Gandhian values.
Similarly, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is an unabashed admirer of Gandhian values and style of politics.
It is just a matter of time when all things will fall in place, and the Auckland City will honour Gandhi’s legacy by permanently giving space to his statue in the City of Sails.
And this would be one of the befitting reputations of an emerging world-class truly multicultural global megacity.
However, till then we must politely continue to lobby for such a statue in Auckland’s public spaces.
Sign the petition here: https://phttpsarmjeetparmar.national.org.nz/honour_the_legacy_of_mahatma_gandhi