London, Mar 4 (UNI) In an odd competition, Gary Lineker, a footballing hero rated among Britain's most prolific strikers and Mahatma Gandhi, the world's most celebrated pacifist, are pitted against each other in Leicester.
The two could be in competition as Leicester, one of the most multicultural city of Britain, decides whose image is to be erected as a commemorative statue. Initial plans to install one of Gandhi in the city are opposed by residents who feel a local hero, such as Lineker, deserves the honour.
Leicester has a high British Asian population, and is predicted to be Britain's first white-minority city in 12 years. An initial ''No Gandhi Statue'' online petition by residents soon made way for a more official protest petition with 211 signatures on the Downing Street website.
Lee Ingram, a Leicester resident who set up the first petition, said he felt there were more deserving local figures of note.
''Gandhi is a historical figure connected to India. He has no connection to English culture or the English, therefore a statue of him would be more suitably erected in India. This would be yet another symbol of segregation in Leicester and it would be something else for the Asian community. We have local heroes here, Lineker or the writer, Joe Orton. In the local paper, I read letters which say Gandhi was a more controversial figure than some believe,'' he said.
But Samanwaya Parivar, the charity behind the plan for the 12 ft bronze structure, is confident its application for a Gandhi statue will be accepted by Leicester City Council. Jitendra Acharya, the charity's General Secretary, said it would fund the project at a cost of up to 20,000 pounds, and that they had overwhelming support from the community.
''It is good the issue is being debated,'' he said. ''We have never said there should not be any other statues in Leicester. This particular statue of Gandhi will be entirely funded by our charity as a gift to the city. It will add to the vibrant and multicultural elements of this city since Gandhi's philosophies of truth, peace and non-violence had no boundaries,'' he added.
Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester East, who has tabled an early-day motion in Parliament to raise awareness of the project, said, ''Gandhi's philosophy of brotherhood among those of different religions and ethnicity should be honoured and celebrated.'', adding that a statue of Gandhi will be an excellent symbol of his and Leicester's commitment to diversity.
Leicester council's leader, Ross Willmott, said, ''Gandhi was a person whose teachings transcended any particular nation or faith.
His teaching and way of life showed us peace and non-violent protest can change the world. I would be proud to see a statue in our city that was a reminder to us all of his philosophy of peace.'' Britain already has a statue of Gandhi in Tavistock Square, central London.
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