Lenin, Periyar, Syama Prasad, Ambedkar: How many statues are to be destroyed to break India?
New Delhi, March 7: Our political wars have taken a big toll on our historical figures, to be precise their statues. As several idols of iconic personalities from the pages of history were vandalised and defaced in the last two days, the Talibanisation of the country seems to have been completed. All these days, debates were hosted to understand if India has become "intolerant" as a nation. Now, we perhaps need to discuss whether we have become almost "savages" to defeat our political opponents.
The razing down, vandalisation and defacing of statues of Vladimir Lenin, Periyar EV Ramasamy, Syama Prasad Mukherjee and BR Ambedkar showcase that like the Taliban in Afghanistan, we too don't allow any idea to live and thrive that is remotely against the current political notion of "hyper-nationalism".
On Monday, when the massive statue of the Russian revolutionary leader was pulled down by a group of men with the help of a bulldozer in Tripura's Belonia town, it was immediately compared with the destruction of the famous fourth-century Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan by Taliban in 2001. Back in 2001, India strongly condemned the crime committed by the fanatics.
In less than two decades, India gives birth to its own "Talibans" as men clad in saffron attire celebrated the demolition of Lenin's statue in the northeastern state by chanting "Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Hail, mother India)". The opponents of the Left termed the razing down of the statue of a communist icon in Tripura as symbolic after the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front government lost power to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state elections recently.
The 2018 Tripura election was an ideological battle between the left and the right. The right emerged triumphant over the left. With the defeat, the curtains came down on the 25-year-old Left regime in Tripura. The Tripura loss was a big blow to the communists across the nation as the state was one of the last two citadels of the Left. An almost diminished Left now holds power only in Kerala.
Those who cheered the toppling of Lenin's statue stated that he was a "foreign" despot responsible for the death of so many innocents. The fact that several of Lenin's statues were earlier razed down across the world (even in Russia) came handy to justify the vandalism in Tripura.
Controversial senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy called Lenin a terrorist and asked the Left to install his statue inside party headquarters. On Tuesday evening, reports stated that one more statue of Lenin in Tripura, this time in Sabroom, was brought down.
Tripura's statue politics soon reverberated in Tamil Nadu. After BJP national secretary H Raja on his Facebook post instigated his supporters to pull down the statues of Periyar, the revered social activist, a politician who started the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam, late on Tuesday night one of his figurines in Vellore was vandalised by two men.
The statue of Periyar, housed inside the Tirupattur corporation office, was targeted around 9 pm. The glasses and nose of the statue were damaged. While Rao apologised and said that he did not write the Facebook post, the damage had already been done.
After Lenin and Periyar, it was time for Mukherjee's statue to be targeted in West Bengal. A bust of Mukherjee, the politician who founded the right-wing nationalist party, Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a predecessor to the BJP, was defaced in Kolkata's Chittaranjan Das Park inside Kalighat Crematorium by six men on Wednesday morning.
After blackening and partially damaging the bust with a hammer, the six men, belonging to the Jadavpur University's "Radical" students' organisation, left a note in Bengali seeking an explanation from the BJP over the demolition of Lenin's statues. "We want explanation from BJP on why Lenin's statue was brought down in Tripura," read the poster-sized note.
The attack on Mukherjee's bust was termed as a "tit-for-tat" vandalism. Similarly, a petrol bomb was thrown at the BJP office in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu by three bikers in the early hours of Wednesday. Fortunately, no one was hurt. On Wednesday afternoon, reports stated that a statue of BR Ambedkar, the Dalit icon and father of our Constitution, was vandalised in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut.
While the Left leaders on Tuesday held protest marches in Kolkata, Bengaluru and other places over the razing down of Lenin's statues, on Wednesday Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the violent acts. The PM in an official statement said that stern action will be taken against those found guilty of violence and vandalism. Moreover, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said PM Modi has spoken to him and "expressed strong disapproval of such incidents".
The latest cases of attacks against statues of deceased leaders who held various ideologies indicate the rise and rise of divisive politics in the country that has often caught us in its grip. From mob lynching of Muslims and Dalits, "ban" on beef eating to asking people to go to Pakistan and Bangladesh for opposing Hindutva politics, democracy is clearly in danger.
As we mourn and protest over destroyed statues, India's age-old pluralistic society, where we had the freedom to idolise Periyar, Mukherjee, Ambedkar and Lenin (depending on our own personal likings) at the same time, is facing the challenge of a narrow idea of nationalism.
Those whose are asking for revenge over the desecration of statues should read the tweet below to understand that "ideas" can't be broken like statues.
Similarly, the idea of India is too strong to be shattered by a few goons. Nonetheless, the repeated attempts to break the country's unity are a matter of concern because it is easy to fix a broken statue, not a fallen nation.