Hobbemaplein, 2526 JA, The Hague
The Gandhi statue is a gift of the Hindustani-Surinam community. The double monument offers a memory of the harsh experiences of the first migrants, and contributes to a culture of peace in the neighbourhood.
“I commemorate you Traveller /who you was /who I am” – “parwásikeyád men”
In The Hague we find two different statues of Mahatma Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948). A sculpture in the Hall of Justice of the Peace Palace honours him as a visionary of nonviolence and peace-building. On Hobbemaplein, we see a wandering Gandhi near a crowded marketplace in a popular multi-ethnic neighbourhood.
The double monument of Gandhi and Immigration is a gift of the community organisation Sarnami to the municipality. It was unveiled in 2004 by the Cabinet Minister of Immigration who praised the smooth integration of the Hindustani-Surinam population that makes up 10% of The Hague citizens. The statue depicts Gandhi with a walking stick, with a text in Dutch and Hindustani-Surinam:
“I want all cultures of all countries blow as freely as possible through my house
But I refuse to be blown off my feet,
The other part of the monument depicts 140 years of migration history of the Hindustani-Surinam community. On 5 June 1873, Dutch plantation owners shipped the first group of contract workers as a replacement after the abolition of slavery in 1863. Until 1926, over 34.000 migrants were recruited, of whom less than 30% returned to India. After the Second World War, a wave of new Hindustani immigrants settled in the Netherlands, many of them just before Surinam became independent in 1975. The text expresses shared experiences of hard work and success:
“There where I prosper is my Fatherland” – “Jahán base wahán sundardesu.”
These migrants brought also prosperity to the Transvaal neighbourhood, building the biggest Hindu temple and school of the Netherlands. Moreover, their ties with Hindu culture fortified economic relations between The Hague and India. In 2011 the Indian Embassy established a cultural Gandhi Centre in the international zone (Tesselsestraat 65), and Indian business is sponsoring a ‘Bollywood’ film festival.
The Gandhi and Immigration monument remains a symbol of a culture of peace in the neighbourhood. At the traditional Holi-Phagwa (Spring) festival, Hindustani-Surinam, Indian and other residents of The Hague go to Hobbemaplein, where they cover the statue with flowers and colours.