Institute director responds to recent Gandhi statue vandalism

May 11, 2023

On the evening of March 27th, the Gandhi Statue at Simon Fraser University was decapitated. This was a direct act of violence perpetrated against this important historical anti-colonial figure and his legacy of non-violence.

Through a generous bequest by the India Club of Vancouver, this statue was erected at Simon Fraser University circa 1969. 

The statue has had enormous symbolic significance for many in the diasporic South Asian community, as well as for those who were and continue to be inspired by Gandhi’s up-lifting messages of satyagraha and ahimsa. 

Acts of vandalism simply have no place in a democratic order, no matter who commits them and no matter for what cause. The university, in particular, is and must remain a safe space for reasoned discourse - not acts of aggression, bullying or violence. 

Sadly, acts such as the decapitation of the Gandhi statute are increasingly common as fringe groups become less capable of acknowledging and respecting genuine diversity and disagreement. 

Gandhi has been a vitally important inspiration for many social movements around the world, not least for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as artists such as Phillip Glass. 

Gandhi’s legacy has in recent years become more controversial, like those of growing numbers of historical figures including, for example, J. S. Woodsworth. 

Specifically, Gandhi’s troubled relationships to women and to other racialized communities must be and are being subjected to critical questioning. This necessary criticism and reconsideration must occur, however, in the context of reasoned discussion, not violence or vandalism.

Acts such as this typically undermine rather than advance the views of those who commit them. Those who committed this act should have taken the path of constructive dialogue and debate instead. We must learn from this reprehensible act and hope that other members of the university community and the wider communities it serves will stand together in condemning it.