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Statue of Mahatma to Winnipeg museum was presented by Indian government



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 years.

"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)