A movement to remove a bust honoring Mahatma Gandhi from the Fresno State campus has grown from an online petition to a radio ad campaign.
Listen to the ad here or below.
However, Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro says the bust will remain in the university’s Peace Garden.
Commercials recently began airing on local radio stations, including KMJ (580 AM/105.9 FM), calling Gandhi — revered in popular culture as a non-violent activist for Indian self-determination — a racist and pedophile.
A male narrator reads:
“President Castro, our beloved Fresno State is a jewel in the region. We honor excellence, inclusivity, hard work, and peace. The Gandhi bust represents none of these qualities. Gandhi was undeniably racist towards Africans, dismissive of both the Armenians under the Ottoman Turks and Jews in Nazi Germany. He disrespected Sikhs and held contempt towards oppressed Dalitz. His pedophilic ways are well-documented. We can do better. President Castro. Bring our community together and let’s unite against hypocrisy.”
The ad does not identify its sponsor. Sources tell GV Wire℠ that local physicians helped pay for the commercials.
Indian Club Member: You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About
Agratsant Saxena, a Fresno State business student from India and a member of the Indian Student Club, refuted the claims made in the ad.
“They have some wrong interpretations about Gandhi,” Saxena said. “As a person who was born to racism himself, how can he be racist? That is my question.”
Saxena, though, was not offended by the ad.
“There will be some people who have been in favor of Gandhi and there will be some people who will not,” Saxena said. “If you don’t know, then just keep (your) mouth shut. That is my opinion.”
A Complicated Legacy
“These sentiments are extremely well known. I think anybody that looks into the history of Gandhi, they may reach their own conclusion. But there is strong evidence for everything that was discussed in the ad.” — Naindeep Singh, Jakara Movement
Naindeep Singh, the executive director of the Jakara Movement — a national Sikh community group based in Fresno, says Gandhi has a complicated legacy in the ethnic Sikh community.
“The complications are much more how he has been presented to wider, especially Western audiences. I think it’s most telling is within South Asia itself, and in India specifically, nobody really pays any attention to Gandhi,” said Singh — who is also a Central Unified School District trustee.
While some legendary American civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, publicly admired Gandhi, Singh says they may not have known the whole story.
“While these two figures are extremely laudatory, they were not scholars of Gandhi. So they only knew was what was popular, at least what was told or said about Gandhi,” Singh said.
Asked about the language of the ad, Singh said “these sentiments are extremely well known. I think anybody that looks into the history of Gandhi, they may reach their own conclusion. But there is strong evidence for everything that was discussed in the ad.”
Bust Stays, Castro Says
A petition circulating last month demanded that Fresno State remove the bust of Gandhi at the Peace Garden located near the Madden Library.
“All four individuals recognized in the Fresno State Peace Garden — Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Jane Addams — embodied the spirit of peaceful and constructive activism. This transcendent quality is what the garden memorializes. It does not necessarily honor every facet of their lives.” — Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro
A Fresno State spokeswoman referred to a statement that Castro made on June 24 in response to the change.org petition.
“All four individuals recognized in the Fresno State Peace Garden — Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Jane Addams — embodied the spirit of peaceful and constructive activism. This transcendent quality is what the garden memorializes. It does not necessarily honor every facet of their lives,” Castro wrote.
“We applaud those who call for a clear-eyed look at history and the individuals who shaped it. We also urge everyone to consider carefully the overall significance of each individual’s lasting contribution to a just and fair society. On that basis, we believe those we honor in the Fresno State Peace Garden occupy an important place in history and should continue to guide us in promoting courage, social justice, and tireless efforts to make the world a better place.”
Sudarshan Kapoor, Fresno State professor emeritus, a supporter of the Gandhi memorial and local civil rights activist, says he backs Castro’s position.
The removal of Gandhi tributes is being widely debated all over the world.
Last month in Davis, about 50 from the Sikh community sought the removal of a Gandhi statue from the city’s Central Park.
There have also been movements in England to remove Gandhi statues.
The University of Ghana removed a Gandhi statue in 2018.