Nearly 130 years after Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar breathed his last, Kolkata is once again mourning the revered figure of the Bengal Renaissance after his bust inside a college was smashed to smithereens by clashing supporters of the BJP and the TMC on May 14.
While both the parties have blamed each for the violence that broke out at several spots across the city during BJP president Amit Shah’s massive roadshow on Tuesday, the vandalism appears to be a ‘targeted attack’ as the bust was accessed by smashing a glass case.
However, the broken pieces of the bust signify something that has become a part of the clashing political culture, not just in Bengal but across India.
Just three days before the first phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections was held on April 11, a life-size statue of rationalist leader and Dravidian movement founder EV Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar, was found vandalised at Aranthangi in Tamil Nadu. The statue of Periyar located near the government hospital in Aranthangi town was found with the head dislodged and lying on the ground. Local leaders of the Dravidar Kazhagam noticed the damage caused to the statue and informed police. Another Periyar statue was vandalised in Vellore district in March last year. However, the police at the time had claimed that the incident was perpetrated by two drunk men.
Unidentified miscreants vandalised a statue of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar in Varanasi. But just a few days before that in February, another statue of him was vandalised in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut. The locals had alleged that every year before the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14th something or the other is done to disturb the peace and harmony in the vicinity. Last year, Ambedkar’s statues were targeted at various places across Uttar Pradesh.
Just a day after Ambedkar’s statue in Meerut was defaced, another incident was reported from Jaunpur in the state where a statue of Lord Buddha was vandalised by unknown miscreants.
Communist icon Vladimir Lenin’s statue was brought down at Belonia town, headquarters of South Tripura district, days after the BJP’s victory in Tripura elections where a 25-year-long communist government was ousted last year in March. The nearly 11-ft tall fibre glass statue was brought down with the help of a bulldozer. Belonia is located about 110 km from Agartala.
Syama Prasad Mookerjee
In March 2018, a bust of Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee was vandalised in south Kolkata by seven persons, including a woman, allegedly belonging to a left-wing group. The incident happened after two statues of communist icon Vladimir Lenin were pulled down in Tripura and a bust of rationalist movement founder EV Ramasamy was vandalised in Tamil Nadu. All the seven persons were arrested.
A statue of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was defaced, allegedly by Shiromani Akali Dal workers, near Ludhiana in Punjab last December. The face of the statue was painted black and the hands were painted red. The miscreants reportedly defaced the statue, accusing the former PM and the Congress of the killings of hundreds of Sikhs in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Last year, a week ahead of Gandhi Jayanti (October 2), a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was found vandalised at Kacheripady in Kochi.
A statue of Jawaharlal Nehru was reportedly attacked in Rajasthan’s Bundi in June 2018 when unidentified miscreants put a tyre around the statue at Azad Park.