Statue vandalism the new tool of political battles in India
Statues of left and right-wing icons have been desecrated by rival groups set off by the Modi-led BJP's win in the left-ruled state of Tripura.
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for calm after a number of statues have been destroyed or damaged in different parts of the country. On Monday, a statue of Communist icon Vladimir Lenin was demolished in Tripura, a Northeastern state in India.
The Lenin statue was demolished with a bulldozer soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is centrally in power, won the state election, ending 25 years of Communist rule in Tripura.
Sporadic incidents of violence between followers of rival political parties have also been reported after the election results were announced on March 3.
Prime Minister Modi said on Wednesday that he “strongly disapproved” of the vandalism spree in different parts of the country. He spoke about the issue to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who said the ministry had directed state governments to handle the incidents firmly.
Modi raised his concerns after the demolition of the Lenin statue started a domino effect. The previous day BJP leader H Raja made a threat in a Facebook post, saying that after Lenin, the statues of EV Ramasamy, who is popularly known as Periyar, would meet the same fate.
That night police arrested two men in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district for vandalising a statue of Periyar, a Dravidian icon who led the Self-Respect Movement in South India to eradicate social inequality, especially caste discrimination.
Police said one of the two men arrested in Tamil Nadu was suspected to be a BJP worker and the other a Communist Party of India activist.
In the latest incident, a bust of right wing political party Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was vandalized on Wednesday at South Kolkata in the state of West Bengal. The Jan Sangh party of Mookerjee was related to Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and was the predecessor of the BJP.
Six students from Kolkata’s Jadavpur University have been detained over the vandalism of Mookerjee’s statue. The bust was partially desecrated and its face was blackened.
The attacks on statues is emblematic of the conflict between the Communists and the right-wing BJP in India. The Tripura win was a landmark for the BJP, which has recently been on a quest to create a Communist-free India.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has been mulling an anti-BJP coalition for the national elections due in 2019, has been further weakened by the BJP’s Tripura move.