20 K pound Mahatma Gandhi statue unveiled in Leicester

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Leicester (UK), June 27 (ANI): A large statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled in this southeastern English city on Friday by British Home Secretary Alan Johnson amid tight security after internet protesters warned it could be defaced.

Around 1,000 people, including a large number ethnic Indians, turned up to watch the unveiling by Johnson and Hindu spiritual leader Swami Satyamitrananda of Hardwar.

The seven and a half feet tall bronze statue is placed on five-and-a-half-foot plinth.

Sculpted by Gautam Pal and shipped from Kolkata, it was placed on Belgrave Road, a thriving Indian business and shopping area in the heart of Leicester, a city known as Little India for its population of 280,000 ethnic Indians - the second largest Indian settlement in Britain after London.

Local MP Keith Vaz, one of the main drivers of the project - Indian Consul General Jordana Pavel, Leicester Lord Mayor Roger Blackmoore, the city's second MP Peter Salisbury, several noted businessmen and councilors and members of the charity Samanvaya Parivar, attended the unveling of the 20,000 pound statue.

Women broke into spontaneous singing of 'Raghupati Raghav' and 'Vaishnava Jana to' - two of Gandhi's favourite Hindi hymns - as the statue was unveiled before milling crowds.

Johnson said the Gandhi statue would offer 'comfort, reassurance and serenity to people in Leicester and around the world.'

"Inclusiveness and diversity were the cornerstones of Gandhi's beliefs long before these words became fashionable," added Vaz.

The statue was paid for by the charity Samanvaya Parivar.

Some locals who said authorities should honour Leicester football hero Gary Lineker instead of Gandhi opposed the statue, sculpted in the famous Dandi salt march pose.

But the former England captain declared he supported Gandhi for reasons of diversity. (ANI)

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