Statement Concerning ‘Gandhi at 150’ – A Response from Common Ground

DOWNLOAD IN FULL: A Statement Condemning the Gandhi at 150 Symposium

Common Ground Oxford condemns the “Gandhi at 150” symposium being held by Somerville and Balliol colleges on 23rd October 2019. 


Mohandas Gandhi, while primarily celebrated as a central activist in the fight for Indian independence, also held deeply flawed and offensive views, and has a well-documented history of the exploitation of young women; of classist attitudes toward “lower caste” Indians; and of virulent anti-African racism. He also expressed problematic views on the Holocaust.*


We sincerely hope that the symposium will endeavour to highlight and critique the complexities of Gandhi’s legacy, but we see no evidence of this from the programme, speakers, or media coverage of the event. We note the institutional connection this event has to the University at a high level – for example, the inclusion of the Master of Balliol as a panel chair; and the Chancellor of the University, Lord Patten, co-introducing the event. 


We also draw attention to the fact that this event is being held in the midst of a period of attempted genocide in the Kashmir region by the Indian government. We note that the event will be co-introduced by Ruchi Ghanashyam, Indian High Commissioner to the UK – a senior diplomat within the Indian administration. 


This event shows yet again how the University of Oxford continues to shirk the responsibilities of confronting the structures of race, class, and colonialism that dominate its past, and constrain its present. We stand together as students from both the hosting colleges, and the University as a whole, in demanding an answer to questions surrounding the acknowledgement of Mohandas Gandhi’s racist and classist attitudes at the “Gandhi at 150” symposium; and in condemning the event as it stands. 


Useful links:

*  “Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.” Fischer, Louis (1950). The Life of Mahatma Gandhi. Harper. p. 348.