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More statues defaced after Lenin’s in Tripura, Centre asks states to investigate attacks

Syama Prasad Mookerjee and BR Ambedkar’s statues were defaced in Kolkata and Meerut on Wednesday. The Prime Minister condemned the spate of statue vandalism in the country. After Modi’s conversation with Rajnath Singh, the home ministry sent out an advisory to states asking them to prevent such attacks.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2018 23:35 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Statue vandalism,Statue politics,Lenin state razed
The toppling of Vladimir Lenin’s statue in Tripura on Monday triggered protests in the state, following which there were incidents of vandalism in other states. (PTI Photo)

From West Bengal to Tamil Nadu to Uttar Pradesh, India witnessed a rash of attacks on statues, prompted by the toppling of a Vladimir Lenin statue in Tripura on Monday. Some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members on Tuesday came out in support of the toppling of the Lenin statue but changed their tune after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he disapproved of such incidents.

Following a conversation between Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the ministry of home affairs sent out an advisory to the states asking them to prevent such incidents, according to a government statement. Later on Wednesday, the ministry issued a second advisory, asking the states to “promptly investigate” all such attacks. It asked states “to make district magistrates and senior superintendents of police personally responsible” for law and order in the context of the attacks.

WEST BENGAL

Kolkata: A group of students allegedly defaced a bust of Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee in south Kolkata on Wednesday morning.

The students allegedly walked up to the Keoratala crematorium, where the statue is located, shouting slogans against the toppling of a statue of Russian communist leader Lenin in Tripura’s Belonia on Monday. They used a hammer to chip away the right ear and eye of the bust and one student defaced it with black ink, police said. The Jana Sangh is the progenitor of the BJP.

“Six male and one female (age 22-29) 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. No vandalism would be tolerated,” tweeted Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar. Four of the seven are students of Jadavpur University and at least one is suspected to have links with extremist Maoist groups, police said. The accused are in police custody, facing charges of rioting, criminal conspiracy and destruction of property.

The ruling Trinamool Congress condemned the incident. “We won’t tolerate it on the soil of Bengal. We have suffered a lot at the hands of CPI(M) supporters, but we never dreamed of vandalising statues of Lenin,” said power minister and local legislator Sovandeb Chatterjee.

Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party president Dilip Ghosh targeted students of Jadavpur University, which has a long tradition of Left politics on its campus. “If you want to raise slogans in favour of Kashmir ki azadi (freedom for Kashmir), do it inside the campus. If you want to bring your slogans outside, we will distort?? your figure,” said Ghosh.

UTTAR PRADESH

Meerut: A statue of India’s first law minister and Dalit icon BR Ambedkar was vandalised by unidentified people in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district, police said on Wednesday.

The statue was vandalised in Mawana Khurana village on Tuesday night and a villager alerted the police, said circle officer UN Mishra. News agency ANI reported that the Dalit community blocked roads and held protests that were called off after assurances from the district administration.

“We have asked the villagers to lodge an FIR (first information report) in this connection. Stern action will be initiated against the culprits,” Mishra said. Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Ankur Srivastava said the damaged statue had been replaced and action would be taken against the vandals.

“The statue was damaged in the night and we have replaced it with a new one. Additional police force has been deployed in the area to avoid any confrontation,” Srivastava said. “Fencing will be done around the statue to stop recurrence of such incidents.”

Residents alleged that the Ambedkar statue in the village was also vandalised on August 4 last year and was replaced with a new one.

The BJP suggested that rival parties were behind the incident. “The culprits should be identified and punished,” said West UP president of the party, Ashwani Tyagi. The Congress blamed the BJP.

“Great leaders remain in the heart of people and influence them,” said Samajwadi Party’s district president Rajpal Singh, demanding punishment for the vandals.

TAMIL NADU

Chennai: Unidentified bike-riding men threw petrol bombs at a BJP office in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore early on Wednesday, allegedly in response to a statue of social activist and rationalist leader EVR Periyar being vandalised on Tuesday night in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore, according to the state police.

No one was injured and there was no major damage to the party office located at VKK Salai in Coimbatore city. Three people have surrendered in connection with the incident, which happened around 3.30am, and they were arrested, the police told PTI.

In Chennai, four activists of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam attacked Brahmins near the famous Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane and cut off their holy threads. According to the police, some eight people were attacked by the bike-borne men, who also shouted slogans “Periyar vazhga, vazhga” (long live Periyar).

Later in the evening, the four surrendered to the police.

On Tuesday, the Periyar statue was vandalised hours after political parties in the state raised a storm of protests against BJP national secretary H Raja’s alleged statement that after the toppling of the Lenin statues in Tripura, it was the turn of Periyar statues in Tamil Nadu. Raja has regretted the statement and said it was published on his Facebook page without his permission.

The state police said two persons were arrested in connection with the incident that took place around 9pm on Tuesday. One of them was identified as a BJP worker, Muthuraman; the other person is from the Communist Party of India (CPI), the police said.

A revered figure in Tamil Nadu politics, Periyar, born Venkata Ramasamy in Erode, fought against the caste system. The vandals reportedly damaged the nose and glasses of the Periyar statue located inside the Tirupathur corporation.

The opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) demanded Raja’s arrest. Members of the DMK, Left parties and the Dravida Kazhagam (DK) burnt effigies of Raja. Reports of protests also came in from Pallavaram, Thanjavur, Mannargudi, Erode, Salem, Karaikudi and Tiruchirapally. “No one can dare to touch EVR’s statue,” said DMK working president MK Stalin.

BJP state unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan sought to distance the party from the controversy. “It is his (Raja’s) personal view and not that of the party,” said Soundararajan. Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, however, has remained silent over the issue.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 22:08 IST