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Gandhi to join Churchill in London square

Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square in London

London, July 8: Who was it who said: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the vice regal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King Emperor.”

Everyone knows it was Winston Churchill in 1930. Later on Churchill made it clear: “I have not become Her Majesty’s First Minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire.”

Today, the eminent British sculptor Philip Jackson spoke to The Telegraph and quipped with a touch of irony: “Well, history proves that things change radically, don’t they?”

Touring India at the moment are an odd couple — the British foreign secretary William Hague hand in hand (metaphorically) with the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, the two most powerful men in the cabinet after Prime Minister David Cameron.

They announced that a statue of Gandhi will go up in Parliament Square and the commission is being undertaken by Jackson, who is responsible for some of the best known sculptures in Britain (and abroad), including Bomber Command in Green Park and Bobby Moore, England’s 1966 World Cup winning football captain outside Wembley Stadium.

There already exists a bust of Gandhi in Tavistock Square in London and a statue in Leicester.

The announcement was made while Hague and Osborne were visiting the Gandhi Smriti in Delhi. They said the monument would be funded by charitable donations and sponsors and the project would have the full support of the British government. A special advisory group, led by UK’s culture secretary Sajid Javid would ensure progress.

Hague said Gandhi “remains a towering inspiration and a source of strength. We will honour him with a statue alongside those of other great leaders in Parliament Square”.

Osborne commented: “As the father of the largest democracy in the world, it’s time for Gandhi to take his place in front of the mother of Parliaments.... New Indian Prime Minister Modi invoked his memory in his inaugural speech to Parliament. I hope this new memorial will be a lasting and fitting tribute to his memory in Britain, and a permanent monument to our friendship with India.”

Javid said: “As chair of this special advisory group this is a poignant moment for me. My parents were born in British India with first-hand experience of Partition. The effect it had on millions of people contributed to my decision to take up public service.”

Jackson was born in Scotland on April 18, 1944, but now works from studios in Midhurst, West Sussex.

Philip Jackson with wax maquettes (models) of figures that make up his sculpture, Bomber Command, of British fighter pilots from World War II

“Obviously I will study the life of Gandhi in great detail now that I have been asked to do this,” he said. “I have everyman’s idea of what he did. His influence has obviously been enormous, not only in this country, but in India and, of course, it is a great privilege and honour to have been asked to do a monument to him in London.”

“It is particularly nice for me because both my wife and myself love India — we go there whenever we can,” he said. “We were last there at the end of last year so it is particularly nice to have been asked to do this.”

He would consider the commission both from the artistic and cultural points of view. “You try and do both. Obviously this is wanted very quickly so I will speak to people about him. One has to research a sculpture like this in the same way one would research a book if one were writing it. One really needs to get under the skin of the person one is doing and that process still has to be done. So I will talk to people and read a lot about him and read the things he said and wrote himself and I will then come to some conclusion as to how this should be done.”

Jackson continued: “I have to do a design which I will then show to the various people involved in the project so I have now got a rather intense period of study before I actually produce that sculpture.”

He was very much looking forward to the project. “Very much so, yes. It is going to be unveiled on the 30th of January next year so I shall be effectively working on it virtually every day in some form until it is finished.”