WINNIPEG, AUGUST 30, 2004
Mahatma Gandhi's long walk through history has paused in an
unlikely spot the central Canadian prairie city of Winnipeg.
A life-size statue of Mahatma, complete with his signature walking
cane, has arrived in central Canada to become the showpiece of
a new Museum for Human Rights.
The 500-kg (1,100-pound) bronze statue created by Ram Vanji Sutar,
whose sculptures of Gandhi are displayed around the world, was
presented by the Indian government and is the museum's first exhibit.
"Gandhi is first on the list of the greatest people involved
in the human rights movement in the past century," said Naranjan
Dhalla, who helped organise the exhibit. "He inspired great
people like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. It's important
to recognise his contribution (to society)."
Gandhi promoted non-violent, passive resistance during India's
fight against colonial subjugation. He was assassinated in 1948,
less than a year after his country gained independence from UK.
His likeness was unveiled and put on display at a downtown Winnipeg
park, where it will remain until the museum opens nearby in four
"It is a great tribute not only to Mahatma Gandhi, but also
to the whole of Indian culture, which preaches tolerance, truthfulness
and non-violence," said Pratap Singh, spokesman for India's
high commissioner to Canada.
"He embodies all of these values, and so having a place
for him in a museum of human rights in a multicultural and multiracial
society like Canada is a great honour." India is widely viewed
as a leader in the fight for human rights but still faces accusations
of sectarian violence, child labour and caste discrimination.
Singh said his country has been trying to eradicate these problems
since establishing a human rights commission in 1993. He also
charged that most countries still struggle with human rights issues.
The museum is the brainchild of Canadian media mogul Israel Asper,
who died last year of heart failure. His daughter Gail Asper said
her father hoped the museum would become an incubator for change,
using innovative distance learning technology, interactive displays
and open forums to educate visitors about the importance of upholding
the rights of others.
The 240,000-square-foot (22,000-square-meter) museum has survived
many disputes. (c01-30)