Lenin, Periyar, SP Mookerjee, Ambedkar: Statue vandalism the new political flashpoint
From Tripura and Tamil Nadu to West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, statue vandalism in the country has affected political parties — mainstream and regional — irrespective of ideology.
The attacks on statues of leaders that started in Tripura are spreading through the country with the latest incident reported from Uttar Pradesh. Statues of Communist, right-wing and anti-caste champions have been targeted in recent days.
The first incident was reported from Belonia in south Tripura, just days after the BJP won the assembly elections, ending the Left’s 25-year rule. This was followed by attacks in Tamil Nadu , West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Here’s a recap:
March 5 A statue of Communist icon Vladimir Lenin was toppled with a payloader and another demolished. The second demolition happened earlier but was reported on March 6.
Where Belonia and Sabroom in Tripura
Fallout The incident triggered violence and clashes between the rival BJP and Left parties in different parts of the state. The CPI(M) claimed at least “200 cases of violence” against its cadres as well as attacks on its offices.
March 6 Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar’s statue vandalised by unidentified people, ANI reported
Where Meerut’s Mawana
Fallout Members of the Dalit community held protest and blocked traffic in the morning. The protest ended after the administration assured a new statue would be installed.
March 6 A mob vandalised a statue of anti-caste champion Periyar, considered the father figure of the rationalist movement in Tamil Nadu, after senior BJP leader H Raja tweeted advocating the destruction of his statues.
Where Vellore in Tamil Nadu
Fallout DMK workers protested against the incendiary tweet by Raja, who later deleted it. The BJP worker — R Muthuraman — who defaced Periyar’s statue was expelled by the party. Petrol bombs were thrown at the BJP office in Coimbatore. Three members of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TDPK) have been arrested for the Coimbatore attack, reported ANI.
Madras high court directed the Tamil Nadu government to provide protection to statues of all the leaders and advised it to ensure that there should not be a breakdown of law and order.
March 7 Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s statue vandalised in Kolkata by six students allegedly belonging to Jadavpur University. The six are members of the ‘Radical’, believed to be a pro-Maoist students body.
Fallout Local Trinamool workers soon gathered at the spot, which is close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Kalighat residence, and stopped the vandals. All six have been arrested. The state administration is preparing to repair the statue.
What political leaders had to say
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘strongly disapproved’ incidents of vandalism of statues in certain parts of the country and spoke to home minister Rajnath Singh on the matter.
Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu described as ‘shameful’ and ‘mad’ the incidents of attacks on statues of iconic leaders in Tripura, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
BJP president Amit Shah “I have spoken to the party units in both Tamil Nadu and Tripura. Any person associated with the BJP found to be involved with destroying any statue will face severe action from the party.”
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge “There is no tolerance in them. The government which is intolerant cannot be democratic. To run a democracy, they have to be tolerant. This is what the Constitution says. Unless there is liberty, equality, fraternity and tolerance, the government cannot be run in a democratic way.”
Union Minister Ananth Kumar “We live in a democracy and have various ideologies. I condemn such attack on statues and incidents of violence.”
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee “What kind of politics is this? Today they are pulling down Lenin’s statue, tomorrow they will do the same with Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Birsa Muda’s statue. Till the time I am alive, I will not tolerate this and will continue to protest against these practices.”
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury “We have severely condemned the manner in which our party offices, comrades and mass organisations were attacked and their houses burnt in the last 24 hours in Tripura. These attacks have been unleashed by the RSS and BJP along with the IPTF (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura), which won the elections. In Belonia, they have brought down a statue of Lenin.”
DMK leader Stalin “No one can dare to touch Periyar’s statue in the state.”
Home minister Rajnath Singh “I appeal to everyone, all parties, that anyone indulging in such acts should be dealt with strictly. These incidents can never be justified.”
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