July 24, 2013

To:

Mayor Bruce Barrows
& the Cerritos City Council
PO Box 3130, Cerritos, CA 90703

Regarding: Permanent Removal of the Cerritos Gandhi Statue

gandhiWe write to request your immediate intervention to prevent the planned re-installation of a statue of Mohandas Gandhi which was, until recently, located outside the Chugh Law Firm at 15925 Carmenita Rd., Cerritos, CA 90703.

The statue has been temporarily removed to repair damages sustained by vandalism. We condemn such criminal acts. We hope to persuade you, however, to rescind the Cerritos City Council’s decision to permit installation in the first place. Gandhi is an historical figure whose personal life and social endeavors are morally odious. We represent South Asian Americans in the Cerritos region (as well as throughout CA, the USA, and abroad) who are deeply offended by civic celebration of a man whose legacy is so repugnant to the American way of life.

There are many ways we could elaborate upon our request for removal of Gandhi’s statue, but for brevity’s sake we will confine ourselves to five major points:

1) Gandhi sexually abused his grandnieces in a manner which would have led to his arrest and imprisonment if done in Cerritos, CA today;
2) Gandhi psychologically abused his deathly sick wife, denying her access to medicine, which directly resulted in her death;
3) Gandhi is rejected by India’s most marginalized communities as the one responsible for increasing their social and political oppression;
4) Gandhi spread sympathy for Adolf Hitler at the height of the Nazi leader’s bloodiest massacres and suggested Jews should cooperate with Hitler’s Holocaust;
5) Gandhi promoted racial supremacy and racial segregation while living and working in South Africa shortly before Apartheid.

1) Gandhi’s sexual abuse of his grandnieces
When in his 70’s and long after becoming internationally famous, Gandhi forced his 17-year-old great-niece Manu and 18-year-old great-niece Abha to share his bed, naked, on a daily basis over a period of years. This was reported in a 2010 article in 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]

2) Gandhi’s psychological abuse of his wife
Author Russ Kick documents the treatment Gandhi meted out to his wife when she fell sick with pneumonia, treatment which resulted in her death:

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. [2]

3) Gandhi’s rejection by India’s marginalized communities
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.”

Mayawati, an internationally recognized Dalit leader in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh who in 2008 was listed by Forbes among the “100 Most Powerful Women,” said in 2007: “[Gandhi] divided Indian society into two categories – the weaker sections and upper castes.” Again in 2009, she called Gandhi a “fake” who “did nothing substantial to improve the condition of the Dalits.”

4) Gandhi’s sympathy for Hitler
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.” [3] 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.” [4] 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.” [5]

During a 1947 interview with English author 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.” [6]

5) Gandhi’s promotion of racial supremacy and racial segregation
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.”

One of his specific actions which he considered a victory was the 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.” [7]

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.”

Gandhi almost always 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]?” [8]

Conclusion
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, even volunteering to serve in two of them. Citing another reason in 1937, Norwegian professor turned politician Jacob Worm-Müller remarked: “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.”

In short, 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. Consequently, we request that you take whatever action is necessary to prevent re-installation of the Cerritos Gandhi statue out of respect for our American families and our American values.

Sincerely,
Arvin Valmuci
Coordinator, OFMI

Citations
1 “Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi’s sex life.” The Independent. April 7, 2010.
2 Kick, Russ. 100 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know”. 167-169.
3 Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG). Vol. 78. 219.
4 Ibid. 253.
5 CWMG. Vol. 79. 453-56
6 Fischer, Louis. The Life of Mahatma Gandhi.
7 CWMG. Vol. 1. 367-368.
8 CWMG. Vol. 28. 62.