Politics of vandalizing statues

By K.N. Pandta

Installing statues of distinguished persons is an old practice beginning with the ancient Greeks. From there it spread to Europe. There is no desk-book criterion for identifying a person whose statue is raised.

Two statues of Lenin were struck down in Tripura soon after the election result was announced and BJP was declared successful. Of course, it was an exciting moment for BJP to have ousted the long entrenched Leftist party government in the State.

But what is the rationale for pulling down the statues of Lenin? We need to be very rational. The Left in Tripura used to come to power through the mandate of the people. The mandate was ground in an ideology and the source of that ideology was Vladimir Lenin, great Russian thinker and founding father of Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia. Therefore, the party and its members in Tripura, wanting to show their regard for their ideological guru viz, Lenin, raised two statues for him. The question of Indian and foreign does not arise because it is a question of ideology. Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Martin Luther King of the US both were staunch adherents of Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence.

As democrats the BJP activists should haveand not pulled down the statue of Lenin. The question that Lenin was responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in the course of Bolshevik revolution is not tenable. If we accept that then we shall have also to accept that Gandhi the apostle of non-violence was responsible not only for the partition of India but also for the horrendous disaster which partition brought in trail, genocide, rapes, arson, loot and rapine. We are still facing its consequences. Abraham Lincoln, the prophet of modern democracy in the US had to fight the civil war for the victory of his ideology namely democracy. Lenin has to be evaluated in the same scale. He was no less a messiah for the poor, the marginalized and the labourer who produced wealth for the society than Gandhi was.

In the same vein, vandalizing the Parikar statues in Tamil Nadu or those of Shyama Prasad Mukerjee in Calcutta or Ambedkar in UP, all are a reflection on political immaturity of those who are responsible for vandalizing of these statues. It puts a question mark on our faith in democracy.

American government circles never formally accepted Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence yet Gandhi’s statue adorns a street in Washington. Lal Bahadur Shastri was no ideologue but in commemoration of his service to the cause of peace he travelled to Tashkent where he concluded a peace agreement with Pakistani leader. He suddenly died in Tashkent and the State of Uzbekistan memorized the event by raising his statue at a street that is now named after him in Tashkent.

Russia has rejected the ideology of communism. She has made great sacrifices to get rid of it. Nearer home, the non-violence of Gandhi is under severe test particularly in the background of Kashmir insurgency, Naxalite movement and tensions on Sino-Indian border leave Pakistan aside. If we had remained glued to the policy of non-violence what would be the picture of India today? Nehru claimed that he was a socialist democrat. The truth is that he was only a half-baked socialist which Congressites know but will not acknowledge. When Gandhi called the meeting of Congress Working Committee to select the first Prime Minister of independent India, Patel polled 11 out of 12 votes and Nehru got just one vote. Yet Nehru wrote to Gandhi that if he was not made Prime Minister he would leave Congress and form his own party. Gandhi succumbed. Where did Gandhi’s and Nehru’s ideology of democracy and majority opinion evaporate in thin air?

When Bolshevik revolution succeeded in 1917, Lenin issued a declaration called Message to the Peoples of the East. This was actually the summation of Soviet State’s policy towards the Muslims of Central Asia. Lenin promised complete freedom of religion and religious practices for the Muslims. However, what was the reality on the ground? When the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 and the Central Asian States declared their independence, in numerous cities of vast Central Asian Republics the statues of Lenin and Staln were pulled down and the names of streets hitherto in their names were changed.

In this background, we need to appreciate the approach of the Muslim States that reject raising of statues or busts no matter howsoever famous and popular a public figure is. The simple and lasting logic behind the Islamic concept is that no human being is infallible and nothing has permanency in this world except the change.

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