Optician says ‘despicable’ Gandhi statue plan degrades women

17:00 15 August 2014

Dr Kusoom Vadgama. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Dr Kusoom Vadgama. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email

A Temple Fortune optician has launched a campaign to stop a statue of Mahatma Gandhi being erected in Westminster’s Parliament Square because of the Indian independence leader’s “despicable” sexual exploitation of young women.

Mahatma Gandhi addressing a women's meeting in Bombay in 1931. Picture: PA Archive.Mahatma Gandhi addressing a women's meeting in Bombay in 1931. Picture: PA Archive.

Dr Kusoom Vadgama, who has run her own practice in Finchley Road for 46 years, is starting a petition calling on the UK government to scrap the statue plans.

The 82-year-old, founder of the Indo-British Heritage Trust, said she revered Gandhi as a “god” for years until she discovered he used to sleep with teenage girls, including his own great niece, in self-designed tests of his celibacy.

She has decided to speak out now following a spate of gang rapes and hangings involving female Indian victims.

“Half the world’s population are women and look at the way we are treating them in India,” said Dr Vadgama. “Men have got away with murder for too long.

“I can’t see this statue of a man who used women for his experiment. It’s despicable. Go and sleep with a prostitute or another woman, not your niece, who’s barely out of her teens.

“What about the girl who is going through puberty? How does she feel about it?”

Last month, Chancellor George Osborne and then-Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed the plans for a Gandhi memorial during an official visit to India.

Dr Vadgama’s parents were born in India and had moved to Kenya’s capital Nairobi when their daughter was born, instilling a staunch anti-colonialist mindset in her from a young age.

She grew up hating the British government and idolising freedom champions like Gandhi, before moving to the UK permanently in 1953.

Over the years, Dr Vadgama’s views on Gandhi have changed.

“This statue will represent everything negative about Indo-British relationships,” she said. “There is nothing positive about this man that could be represented in Parliament. He didn’t like the British, he wasn’t a Parliamentarian.

“He’s been elevated to a degree where no one can touch him. But why not? Until now, people accepted it – saying, ‘He’s a great man, he did it [slept with teenage girls], so what?’ But it isn’t so what.

“There is something very unpleasant about this statue in Parliament Square and I will do my damnedest to stop it.”

She pointed out there was already a statue of Gandhi in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, and insisted a more suitable candidate for a Parliament Square statue would be Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Indian MP.

Dr Vadgama is calling on people to get behind her campaign, adding: “It’s been 100 years since women got the vote, now let’s get our dignity back. When women have been raped and hanged, someone has to stand up for these women.”

If you wish to support Dr Vadgama’s campaign against the statue, email


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Camden Borough Commander CS Penny Banham. Picture: Polly Hancock

Camden’s new top cop has criticised proposals put forward by Hampstead residents to fund their own police officers – saying it would “not set a good precedent” for the rest of London.

Athlone House, taken in 2011. Picture: Michael Hammerson

The owners of historic Athlone House near Hampstead Heath are to take their bid to demolish the mansion to the High Court.

A 22-year-old man was stabbed at Walker House in Phoenix Street, Somers Town

A 15-year-old boy has been arrested after a man was stabbed at a block of flats in Somers Town, Camden.

Comedian David Baddiel with highly commended Young Person of the Year James Curtis. Picture: Richard Tatham

Fourteen-year-old James Curtis was just eight months old when he was diagnosed as deaf.

Yesterday, 17:55
Sydney Road in Muswell Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock

A 40 year old man has been charged with possession of an offensive weapon and grievous bodily harm.

Yesterday, 17:31
Rimon Jewish Primary School in Golders Green. Picture: Polly Hancock

A Jewish free school has been criticised by the government after its admissions policy was found to favour families who paid subscription fees to certain synagogues.

Yesterday, 15:20
The meeting will see the Syrian refugee crisis discussed Picture: Angelika Warmuth/ DPA Germany

Community groups in Haringey are meeting to decide how best to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Yesterday, 12:56
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson opens the new Archer Academy campus. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A free school’s £14million new campus has been officially opened by Paralympic champion Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


You could be splashing the cash at Topshop!

Just imagine what you could do with £1,000 to spend at Topshop.

You won't need to fork out for groceries for a while!

Asda, one of the country’s leading supermarkets, prides itself in being one of the cheapest places to shop, so you can be sure that your money will go a long way here!

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder