Vladimir Lenin built disastrous economic and political models and propagated state atrocities in the Red Terror. Periyar E.V. Ramasamy built a Dravidian movement that had rationalism and caste egalitarianism as its tenets. Both men have left behind vastly different legacies. Neither of those legacies should be contested by mob violence. Nor, for that matter, should the legacies of B.R. Ambedkar or Syama Prasad Mookerjee.

The vandalism targeting their statues is reprehensible. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah have rightfully condemned it. But judging by the comments of BJP leaders such as Ram Madhav, they need to do some convincing in their own ranks.

There are two problems here. The first is the obvious one. Political leaders should not be condoning mob violence. The second relates to the ideological struggle, filtering into India’s historical narratives, that has been underway since the BJP’s 2014 victory. Such struggles are important. That is why they must be won by persuasion and argument, not force.

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