Statue of Vandalism

The Internet on Tuesday erupted in shock as a statue of Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was razed by a group of suspected BJP workers in Belonia, Tripura amidst chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". The demolition comes days after the BJP-led alliance managed to wrest control of the state, which experienced communist rule for the past 25 years.

In such a climate, a reaction is often influenced by the ideological and political strand that one subscribes by. The reactions that flooded the Internet soon after the video went viral ranged from shock, misplaced anger to even celebration. The demolition did evoke strong reactions from both sides as the detractors commented that vandalism should not be encouraged and the demolition of a statue by a democratically elected government shows its contempt for erasing history. The supporters, meanwhile, cheered as the razing of the statue which they termed as the symbolic end of a rule characterised by oppression, intimidation and fear.

In 2012, a bunch of fanatics affiliated to the Raza Academy defaced a war memorial dedicated to the heroes of the 1857 First War of Independence. The action that deserved widespread condemnation, presumably from all sides of the political spectrum, received none of the condemnation that the Left often talks about. Are we to conclude that it is violence only when it hurts them and that vandalism done by opponents is acceptable? The Left is often the champion of right to life and yet, when political workers become victims of party differences, there is not even a whimper raised. Similarly, when a group of unknown assailants kill Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore, there is no attempt to even ask hard questions about the compulsions that drive the state government in being unable to locate the killers of the slain journalist.

We now live in a global environment where Communism is no longer a significant ideology. Revolutionary leaders like Lenin do not inspire confidence as much as they repulse. Soon after the Lenin statue was demolished in Tripura, Left ideologues expressed shock that the suspected workers played football with the severed head of Lenin and tweeted that while a statue can be razed, the idea cannot be demolished. Why then are demolition of statues in Ukraine a popular phenomenon? In countries such as Ukraine, more than 2000 monuments dedicated to the Left have been razed since the fall of Communism. Several Ukrainians lost their lives due to Lenin and the statues and monuments often serve as reminders of an oppressive regime. By the turn of millennium, a significant chunk of statues and monuments were demolished in western and central areas of Ukraine. As we go ahead, one sees the increasing irrelevance of the Left and demolition of statues that celebrate crimes against humanity is a popular phenomenon.

India for the longest time, has been perceived as a non-violent country. Yet, we have symbols such as the statue of Lenin to remind us of oppression and fear. There has been a careful attempt to choreograph leaders by whitewashing their deeds. Does Lenin and his ideology even resonate with an average citizen of the country who is more interested in fulfilling his daily needs? It is bewildering to learn that we need statues of foreign leaders, with little or absolutely no relevance to India's history to eulogise. This, in the land of Deendayal Upadhyaya, Swami Vivekananda and Chhatrapati Shivaji.

Lastly, the demolition of Lenin's statue in Tripura is as much a political implication as it is symbolic. The razing of the statue only points to the importance of one of the last vestiges of Left ideologies. This, in my opinion, is an important act to portray the increasing irrelevance of the communist ideology in India's polity. 

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