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Davis, California

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Davis City Council approves modified design of Gandhi statue. Hopes to prevent future acts of vandalism with new design

Controversy over the presence of Gandhi statue continues to put local Gandhi supporters and protestors at odds

At the Davis city council meeting on Jul. 20, the city council unanimously voted on a modified design of the Gandhi statue that was recommended by the Gandhi Statue for Peace Committee. 

    Davis City Manager, Mike Webb, explained the vandalism of the original statue that occurred on Jan. 27. 

    “[The original statue was] damaged by vandalism beyond repair,” Webb said. “The statue was cut from its base and significantly damaged.”

    The original statue featured Gandhi in a standing position while the new design features Gandhi in a seated position. With this new design, the city hopes to thwart future acts of vandalism. 

California Advocacy Director of Hindu American Foundation, Easan Katir, noted his reaction upon hearing the news. 

“I think the council did what [they were] supposed to do, which is to reflect the attitudes and beliefs of their constituents,” Katir said. 

    During the Davis city council meeting on July 20, the council listened to various public comments from the community. 

    Gowri Kowtha, a Yolo County resident, submitted a public comment regarding his approval of the statue’s reinstallation. 

    “Mahatma Gandhi believed in peace, not war, and his statue in Davis is important to the entire Indian community,” Kowtha said. “We appreciate your attention to this matter.”

    Khan Foreman, a Yolo County resident, submitted a public comment regarding his disapproval of the statue’s reinstallation. 

“I am opposed to replacing the previous Gandhi statue with a new one,” Foreman said. “I believe that this controversial issue needs to have more discussion. There’s a lot of concerns around Gandhi as an individual around things like anti-blackness and misogyny and other forms of bigotry, as well as questions about his tactics.”

    Webb explained how the City of Davis accepted the statue as a deed of gift in 2016 during the Davis city council meeting. 

    “That deed of gift placed some certain responsibilities on the city in the acceptance of that gift,” Webb said. “[These responsibilities included]—but [were] not limited to—taking reasonable precautions to protect and preserve that artwork in gratuity, to ensure that it is placed where it can be viewed by the public, not permit it to be defaced to the best of the city’s ability and also not sell or dispose of the work and then to make all possible efforts not to remove the art from the city’s collection once it was accepted.”

    Webb provided further insight regarding the history of the statue leading up to its reinstallation.

    “Since the installation, there have been a myriad of local gatherings at the statue, both in celebration of and some in opposition to Gandhi,” Webb said. “Since that installation, there have also been three different instances of vandalism.”

    The third vandalism occurred on Jan. 27 when the statue “was cut from its base and significantly damaged,” Webb said. 

    Webb explained how the city was obligated to replace the statue. 

“Installing a replacement statue is consistent with the city’s deed of gift and our contractual commitment to preserve and protect the statue,” Webb said. 

    Davis Mayor Gloria Partida addressed concerns during the city council meeting regarding the replacement statue due to the moral controversy of Gandhi as an individual. 

    “I would be really interested in having a conversation about moving the statue to a different location because of some of the concerns around security,” Partida said. “I am concerned about this being in such a prominent location when there is such a controversy and when there is an obvious displeasure from a segment of our community that feels a reminder of injury when they look upon this statue.”

    Partida emphasized the Davis community’s emphasis on inclusion. 

“The work he has done is indisputably important,” Partida said. “We pride ourselves on being a community that is inclusive and incorporates all the considerations of all the people that live here. The Sikh community obviously has issues with Gandhi, and I just can’t believe that we would completely ignore that.”

Partida addressed the controversy regarding the Gandhi statue and Gandhi in general. 

“I think it is important for us to acknowledge that there is some controversy when there is controversy,” Partida said. “If the community wants to have something that points out that we have controversy, I think that that’s something we should follow.”

Katir added a final note regarding the importance of the Gandhi statue. 

“I think it’s wonderful that here in the middle of California, we can have a reminder that there once was a person who freed several nations through nonviolent means,” Katir said. “That is an elevation for all of mankind to not resort to war and violence but to do things more peacefully. That is what we could use as a model going forward for the rest of history.”

Written By: Jelena Lapuz — city@theaggie.org

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