CIVILNET.Why Should Mahatma Gandhi’s Statue Stand in Yerevan? An Indian View



By Murtza Ali Ghaznavi

As a businessman of Indian origin based in Tbilisi and active in both the republics of Georgia and Armenia, it is with cautious enthusiasm that I received the news of the potential installation of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the almost 3,000 year old capital city of Yerevan. The presence of which can be clearly inferred to be a visible manifestation of the warm ties between Armenia and India. 

Though Mr. Patrick Azadian raises some interesting objections and conversely, Mr. Nareg Seferian raises some interesting justifications of this action occurring in their homeland, there are also some thoughts that can be expressed from an outsider’s perspective; from the viewpoint of India this is a positive development indeed. Though Indian independence has other tragically unsung and forgotten heroes from Bhagat Singh to Subhas Chandra Bose, Gandhi Ji is very much considered the Father of Independent India and his presence in Yerevan shall no doubt come as a source of comfort and pride to the plethora of Indian students, tourists and indeed expatriates who call the South Caucasus home.

How the presence of this statue actually serves the people of Armenia is another matter entirely. Although Mahatma Gandhi was many things ranging from a lawyer to a proponent of non-violent, passive resistance, it is also important to look beyond the man and look at what he represents. Mahatma Gandhi is very much a symbol of India that is recognized worldwide for representing peace, equality and freedom. When understood in this greater context this statue may be seen as a fitting symbol of relations between both republics. India and Armenia enjoy friendly relations which have been swiftly growing in recent times. Both countries are recognized as being at the forefront of information technology and innovation. Both countries have a significant diaspora all over the world and whilst Armenia is rapidly becoming a bastion of democracy, India is the largest democracy in the world. Both countries have friendly relationships with some of their neighbours and tumultuous relationships with others. There is a budding Indian presence in Armenia as well as Armenians having been settled in India as far back as the 16th Century. The easily recognizable and fully functioning Armenian churches that still stand in Kolkata and Chennai today are vibrant testaments to this as is the evidence of Indian settlements in Greater Armenia as far back as 149 BC.

If expanded upon from an India- Armenia perspective to a Hindkastan- Hayastan perspective, the links between both countries are shown to be far more intricate. Though India has a plethora of languages and dialects, they all originate from the same Indo-Aryan roots as the Armenian language and its various barbarner. This is humorously exemplified by any speaker of a North Indian language being easily able to haggle at the Vernissage in Yerevan due to most of the numbers being the same.  Both cultures place strong emphasis on religion, family values, music, poetry and knowledge. Though India has a cornucopia of subcultures the fact remains that the Indian people are one proud and united nation, just as the Armenians are, and both are very old nations who existed in their lands long before numerous outsiders came whether to trade or invade. In fact India is a nation that has never invaded any other and instead always strived to prosper based on its own merit and resources. Surely these are values that the Armenian people can appreciate.

This mention of values can bring us to yet another perspective on Mahatma Gandhi; that of his values being universal. As fiercely proud as Indians are of this son of Gujarat who fathered the whole nation’s independence, the fact remains that all of humanity can take pride in the values he aspired to. There are many countries with statues of famous poets, scholars and intellectuals from all over the world and these personages have not been afforded this honour because of their nationality but rather their contributions to humanity. Many would argue that Mahatma Gandhi certainly qualifies under such criteria. As far as the controversy is concerned the fact remains that there are statues the world over that despite the sanctity of what they represent for some can also prove fertile grounds for iconoclasts. Accordingly it is important to remember that this is not just a statue of a man but rather a universal symbol of humanity that is instantly recognized throughout the world. “Mahatma” literally translates to “Great Soul.” Surely a great city would be an appropriate home for this statue.

Murtza Ali Ghaznavi is an International Higher Education Development Specialist with 12 years of experience in Europe, the Middle East and Post Soviet Republics. He is the Director of the Euroeducation language training centre, (Yerevan). 

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS