A war on statues is silly but also dangerous

The Prime Minister’s signal to celebrate BJP’s electoral victory in Tripura and his belief that it amounted to vanquishing an ideology has triggered an unfortunate and medieval war of statues

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Zafar Agha

It was Lenin first in Tripura. The next day Periyar followed in Tamil Nadu. Soon enough Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s bust was defaced in Bengal. Reports are coming from Goa that a municipal council there has decided to pull down some BJP leader’s statue. The long and short of it is that India is being pushed to a war of statues--- something we had not heard of till now.

But, frankly, the target is not just some lifeless statues but icons of certain ideology or leaders of a social group or region, who are being targeted in the guise of statues.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself confirmed it when at a party meeting he described BJP’s victory in Tripura as an “ideological victory” for the BJP. He was clearly happy at the Left ideology losing out to Hindutva in the election, never mind if the difference in popular votes between the victor and the loser was marginal and not even one per cent. What was howeveralarming is that Modi’s happiness was celebrated by his party cadres in the most medieval manner where the losing political party is being treated not just as political rivals but as enemies whose nose needs to be rubbed in the dust.

The war of statues took an ominous turn when some BJP followers pulled down Periyar’s statue in Tamil Nadu signalling that the revered icon of social justice movement and Tamil hero would not be tolerated under the Hindutva raj; It provoked Periyar’s followers who went on rampage against Hindutva icons while in Bengal, communists hit back at the BJP by defacing a bust of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

The stark question is: Do we Indians need a war of hatred disguised under a cloak of attacks on statues in this 21st century? Especially when China is emerging as a global power? Of course, we do not need it. But the truth is that the BJP is pushing India to a place where not democratic but medieval ways are becoming the norm.

This dirty game of hatred against the ‘’other’’ started with Ram temple-Babri mosque controversy in the early 1990s. The Babri mosque was pulled downthen to teach the Muslim minority a lesson. Now statues are being pulled down to tell communists and leaders of groups and parties fighting for social justice that they better accept the ideology of the BJP and the PM or else be ready to face attacks.

Hate politics of any hue is dangerous at any point of time. It may succeed in the short term but inevitably leads to disastrous consequences as in Germany during the last world war. Hitler did win elections and thought he had taught Jews a bitter lesson.But eventually he lost out but not before he had unleashed a great humanitarian tragedy across Europe and elsewhere in the world.

It is no longer presumptuous to say that forces of Hindutva are leading India to a similar dangerous denouement. The politics of us versus them was initially targeted at minorities like Muslims. Now ideological rivals are being treated as the other. But here lies the problem. Minorites are non-Hindus. They were terrorised and were resigned to their suffering. But both communists and Tamils comprise large number of Hindus. They are unlikely to succumb meekly to bullying and accept being treated as the ‘other’.

Here lies the danger. This kind of me-versus-my-enemy could lead to a civil war that may destroy all of us. Pushing Tamils to the wall may fan Tamil secessionism in Tamil Nadu. Teaching communists a lesson could push them to take up arms like Naxals. It will have no end, frankly.

So, the war of statues does have the potential to turn into a civil war which a modern nation like India certainly does not deserve. But would forces of Hindutva heed to reason? Saffron celebration at the fall of Tripura’s red bastion and consequent violence unleashed there is not a signal of sanity returning upon Hindutva forces soon.

Is there anyone around to save India from these forces of medievalism? We certainly need another Mahatma, or else…!

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Published: 08 Mar 2018, 10:17 AM