Statue vandalism issue emerges as a political flashpoint
8 min read.Updated: 07 Mar 2018, 09:26 PM ISTLivemint
Statues of Lenin in Tripura, Periyar in Tamil Nadu, Syama Prasad Mookerjee in Kolkata and B.R. Ambedkar in Meerut have been vandalised in the past two days. A look at the political developments on the statue vandalism issue
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on Wednesday strongly condemned the incidents of statue vandalism in Tripura, Tamil Nadu and Kolkata where sculptures of Lenin, Periyar and Syama Prasad Mookerjee were targeted.
The prime minister also spoke to home minister Rajnath Singh on the matter and expressed his strong disapproval of such vandalism. The ministry of home affairs has said it has taken serious note of such incidents and directed state governments to take strong action.
Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar’s statue vandalised in Meerut
A statue of Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar was vandalised and replaced later in Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh. Following the incident, members of the Dalit community in Meerut blocked the Meerut-Mawana road even as the administrative officials sought to calm down the protesters and assured them that the vandalised statue would be replaced with a new one.
The officials later said that a new Ambedkar statue had been installed. According to police, the statue was installed by the Dalit community in Chhota Mawana several years ago. It was vandalised by some unidentified people late on Tuesday night. The incident sparked protests by members of the Dalit community.
Mawana circle officer U.N. Mishra told PTI-Bhasha that the situation is normal and the new statue of Ambedkar had been installed. He, however, added that no complaint was lodged in connection with the incident.
Prima facie, it is case of a conspiracy, the officer said. The vandalisation of Ambedkar statue comes after a series of such incidents targeting statues and busts across the country.
Lenin’s statue brought down in Tripura
Communist icon Vladimir Lenin’s statue was brought down at Belonia town, headquarters of South Tripura district, days after the BJP’s victory in Tripura elections where a 25-year-long communist government was ousted.
The nearly 11-ft tall fibre glass statue, which stood on a pedestal at College Square, was brought down last Monday with the help of a bulldozer.
Belonia is located about 110 km from Agartala. Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, and its arch-rival in Bengal, the Trinamool Congress, have blamed the BJP for the incident.
Meanwhile, Belonia Municipal Council’s CEO Amit Ghosh said that the vandalised statue will be kept at the premises of the municipal body in Agartala.
“We initially let the damaged statue lay there as it was since we were not sure about the mood of the people. We wanted to things to subside a bit. But, now, as per instructions from higher authorities, we have decided to take the statue and store it in our office premises," Ghosh told PTI. He said, it has not yet been decided whether it will be kept indoor or outdoor at the Council’s premises.
“The head is severed from the main body of the statue, so it presents an ungainly sight. We will try to wrap it up in something. Whatever happened is condemnable. Lenin is a world icon," he said, adding “there is no CCTV camera in the area where the incident took place".
The statue was erected sometime around 2015 at the cost of nearly Rs5 lakh and a local artist has sculpted it. The fund had come from the Tripura Urban Employment Programme (TUEP), he said.
Asked if the statue will be reinstalled or another one would replace it, he only said, “At this point of time, nothing has been decided. We are also thinking of holding a town hall to let the local people decide of its fate."
Periyar statue vandalised in Tamil Nadu
A statue of social reformer and founder of Dravidian movement E.V. Ramasamy “Periyar" was allegedly vandalised in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district on Wednesday night, police said.
The incident, which the police claimed was perpetrated by two drunk men, assumed political significance as it came after a BJP leader indicated that statues of the rationalist leader could be the next to be pulled down after a statute of Communist icon Lenin was razed by suspected BJP workers in Tripura.
A senior district police officer said that two people, identified as Muthuraman and Francis, damaged the bust at Tirupattur in an inebriated state.
The duo have been arrested, the police said, adding that while Muthuraman was suspected to be a BJP worker, Francis is believed to be a CPI activist.
Earlier on Wednesday, BJP leader H. Raja said in a Facebook post in Tamil, “Who is Lenin and what is the connection between Lenin and India? What connection India has with Communists? Today Lenin’s statue removed in Tripura, tomorrow it will be the statue of E.V. Ramasamy in Tamil Nadu."
The post was subsequently deleted. It drew condemnation from several political parties in the state. Political parties including DMK, MDMK and the Left lashed out at Raja, a BJP national secretary, with DMK working president M.K. Stalin leading the charge seeking his detention under the ‘Goondas Act’.
Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s bust vandalised in Kolkata
A bust of Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee was on Wednesday vandalised in south Kolkata by seven persons, including a woman, allegedly belonging to a left-wing group ‘Radical’, police said.
All the seven persons have been arrested, city police commissioner Rajiv Kumar said. The incident happened after two statues of communist icon Vladimir Lenin were pulled down in Tripura and a bust of rationalist movement founder E.V. Ramasamy or Periyar was vandalised in Tamil Nadu.
“Six men and one woman in their early 20s who tried to deface the bust of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee have been arrested from the spot by Kolkata Police and strong legal action initiated," Kumar said in a statement.
“No vandalism would be tolerated," he said.
A senior officer of the Tollygunj police station said the accused entered the area and suddenly started damaging the bust and then splattered black ink on it.
Locals caught hold of the accused and informed the police. The police said the seven persons were members of the left-wing group called “Radical". A poster was also found from the spot with the word “Radicals" written on it, they said.
“A portion on the right side of the bust including its right ear, eye and cheek was damaged," the officer of the Tollygunj police station said.
Restoration of the bust has been initiated, he said. Adequate police personnel have been deployed in the area to check any other untoward incident.
Commenting on the incident, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said: “Whenever the Left goes out of power they take up such tricks. This is an anti-national act," he alleged. The BJP said the party will hold agitation outside Tollygunge and Kalighat police stations on Wednesday against the incident.
Politics on statue vandalism
What AIADMK, DMK and Kamal Haasan said
Senior AIADMK leader and state fisheries minister D. Jayakumar said: “Anyone disrupting public peace will be produced before law."
Using a Tamil phrase, he indicated that the government will not hesitate to take action against anyone affecting public peace. Opposition DMK said that following the outcry in Tamil Nadu on this issue, none would make such remarks henceforth.
DMK working president M.K. Stalin recalled Ramasamy’s contribution in fighting various social evils and striving towards an egalitarian society and said he was a widely respected leader.
Pointing out at the widespread protests and the public outcry against Raja’s comments, Stalin said “none even in their dreams will now think of removing statues of Periyar."
“If anyone wanted to do so, let them touch the statues and the DMK, which upholds the Dravidian ideals of Periyar, will show who they are," he said in a letter to partymen.
President of Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM), actor Kamal Haasan, said he wondered if the ongoing controversy was aimed at diverting attention from the Cauvery issue. He said it came at a time when there were strong demands in the state urging the Centre to constitute the Cauvery Water Management Board (CMB), as per Supreme Court guidelines. Asked if the BJP should take action against Raja, Haasan said “that would be the proper, decent thing to do."
What Rajnath Singh said on the statues being vandalised
Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday asked all political parties to ensure that those found desecrating statues are dealt with strictly and said such incidents of vandalism can never be justified. The minister’s comments came hours after the home ministry said it had sent an advisory to all states and Union territories to take strong action against anyone involved in the destruction of statues.
“I appeal to everyone, all parties, that anyone indulging in such acts should be dealt with strictly. These incidents can never be justified," Singh told reporters outside Parliament.
Lok Sabha disrupted
The proceedings of the Lok Sabha were washed out for the third consecutive day on Wednesday as parties protested on various issues, including vandalisation of statue of Dravidian icon Thanthai Periyar. Members from AIADMK and AAP were in the Well, holding photos of Periyar and raising slogans condemning the vandalism in Vellore.
AIADMK members continued to raise slogans against the desecration of the statue of Periyar—the founder of Dravidian movement. “We strongly condemn vandalisation of statute of Thanthai Periyar by BJP members," read the placards held by AIADMK members.
TN BJP sacks functionary for Periyar statue vandalism issue
The BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit on Wednesday sacked a party functionary for allegedly vandalising a statue of rationalist leader E.V. Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar, in Tirupattur in Vellore district.
“R. Muthuraman is being expelled from the party," BJP state chief Tamilisai Soundarrajan said in a brief statement.
Muthuraman was one of the two persons arrested by police for allegedly vandalising a bust-size statue of Ramasamy, in an inebriated condition, the other was identified as Francis.
Meanwhile, the CPI said Francis is not a party activist. Francis was not a member of the party nor was he connected to it, CPI state unit secretary R. Mutharasan said. Police on Tuesday said that Muthuraman was suspected to be a BJP worker and Francis was believed to be a CPI activist.