Mahatma Gandhi and the Controversies

 Posted by on January 17, 2000
Jan 172000

Ferry Building
Foot of Market

Zlatko Paunov

This statue of Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi is by Zlatko Paunov.  Presented to the City of San Francisco by the Gandhi Memorial International Foundation, it sits on the water side of the Ferry Building.  Its location is intentional, as to honor Gandhi’s “Salt March to the Sea”  Its objective is to foster principles of nonviolence.

Zlatko Paunov was born in Tryavna, Bulgaria and emmigrated to New York during the communist era.

This seemingly benign statue is not without its critics.

In 2010 the Organization for Minorities of India asked for the removal of the statue that has been in its place since 1988. The group — which seeks to publicize the oppression of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and other Indian minorities — claimed Gandhi was a racist with violent urges.

“The popular image of Gandhi as an egalitarian pacifist is a myth,” Bhajan Singh, one of the organizers, reportedly said in a statement. “We plan to challenge that myth by disseminating Gandhi’s own words to expose his racism and sham nonviolence.”

The protesters directed their demands at the Ferry Building management, but the statue is actually under the supervision of the San Francisco Arts Commission.

“I suppose Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela must have their critics as well,” Arts Commission President P.J. Johnston told the Chronicle in response to the planned demonstration. “These folks are free to lodge their protest, but I doubt that our commission will move to take down the statue.”

The Gandhi Memorial Foundation too is of interest. It was a controversial non-profit organization run by Yogesh K. Gandhi, who claims to be related to Mahatma Gandhi. However, an immediate descendant of Mahatma Gandhi, publicly stated that Yogesh K. Gandhi was a “scam artist”, and “interested primarily in enriching himself.”

The organization’s business dealings were investigated by the United States Senate, in March 1998. On March 8, 1999, Yogesh Gandhi was charged by the United States Department of Justice with “tax evasion, mail and wire fraud and perjury” for dealings related to the Gandhi Memorial International Foundation. The Foundation was reported to have ceased its activities in 1999

This photo shows Gandhi without his eyeglasses.  They are often a victim of theft.  Replacement is done at a cost of approximately $1100.