The bulldozing of the statue of Communist icon Lenin in Tripura has snowballed into a major controversy with members of the Left Front castigating the ”fascist onslaught” of the BJP, whose members have been accused of pulling down the fiber-glass statue barely 48 hours after the assembly election results.
On Monday afternoon, celebrating BJP workers and supporters razed the statue in Tripura’s Belonia town with the help of a JCB amid cries of “Bharat Mata ki jai”. While the CPM, which lost power in the state after 25 years, termed the incident as an example of “Communism phobia”, the BJP claimed that the statue was brought down by people “oppressed” by the Left.
The northeastern state is reported to have witnessed sporadic violence and clashes between rival political groups in different parts ever since BJP stormed to victory in the recently-concluded assembly elections in Tripura. The CPM claimed at least “200 cases of violence” against its cadres as well as attacks on its offices a day after the results were announced.
According to ANI, section 144 was imposed in several violence-affected area. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also spoke to Governor Tathagata Roy and the DGP and asked them to ensure peace till a new government is installed.
— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) March 6, 2018
Criticising the incident, Yechury alleged that the BJP-RSS was unleashing ”unprecedented violence” and arson across Tripura in the aftermath of their victory in the Assembly election. “Such attacks clearly demonstrate that the RSS and the BJP rely mainly on unleashing political violence as means to advance their inherent anti-democratic and fascist agenda,” he said.
Yechury also described the Tripura Governor’s tweet on the matter as ”unfortunate”. ”This shows how constitutional posts are being undermined,” he said. Reflecting on the pulling down of the Lenin statue, Roy had tweeted, ”What one democratically elected government can do another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa.”
In the wake of the incident, CPM top brass took out a rally in Kolkata in protest against the pulling down of the statue. Yechury along with Politburo members Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat, Biman Bose, M A Baby and CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra walked in the rally from Promode Dasgupta Bhawan to Lenin’s statue in Esplande area in the heart of the city. “We condemn such fascist onslaught against the CPI(M) cadres and workers in Tripura. We may have lost an election (in Tripura) but that has not given anyone the right to attack and kill our party workers,” Yechury said.
South Tripura SP Ipper Monchak said the driver of the JCB, Ashish Pal, was arrested on Monday evening and let off on bail. “The statue remains where it has fallen. It will be removed by police and given to the municipality for storage,” Monchak had said.
Commenting on the incident, Tapas Datta, CPI(M)’s Belonia sub-division secretary, said,”Eyewitnesses told me that after the statue fell, its head was dismembered from the body. And then, the BJP workers played football with Lenin’s head.’’
Denying the allegations, BJP south district secretary Raju Nath said the statute fell because of an “overflow of anger”. “For years, there has been resentment against this statue of Lenin. It was built by the municipality and funded by the taxpayers’ money. Why should the taxpayer have to finance a statue of Lenin? Even if it was a statue of our former CPI(M) chief minister Nripen Chakraborty, nobody would have touched it — he was one of us and belonged to the country. But what does this foreigner Lenin have to do with our people?’’ said Nath.
Political reactions to the incident
Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said the government condemns all kinds of violence but added that statues of foreign leaders have no place in India. “We condemn all kinds of violence and the state government is handling the situation. But I want to make it clear that statues of foreign leaders are not required in India. I don’t want to take anyone’s name but I want to say that we have no place for them,” Ahir said. He added that the country had produced enough icons and ideologues, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, B R Ambedkar, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Ram Manohar Lohia, for people to eulogise.
Union minister Giriraj Singh said people who were “oppressed” during the 25-year Left rule in Tripura might have brought down a statue of communist icon Lenin in the state. “The Bharatiya Janata Party or its ideology does not propagate violence but the Left does,” the BJP leader asserted. “So many people were oppressed by the Left. Some of them must have this feeling of revenge,” Singh said.
Defending the act, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy called the late Russian leader “a terrorist” and questioned if the statue of such a person could be installed in India. He also suggested communist leaders to install Lenin’s statue inside their party headquarters and “worship” him, if they want. “Lenin was a foreigner. He was, in a way, a terrorist because the number of people he killed there (in Russia) after imposing dictatorship there. And (you) want statue of such a person erected in our country?,” Swamy asked.
Condemning the incident, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan alleged that the violence unleashed against CPM workers in Tripura was part of a “conspiracy” at the national level to target communists. He stated that the BJP-RSS should not think that communists would cease to exist “just by pulling down four statues.”
“It is wishful thinking that they could wipe out communists from the country.. the violence is part of a conspiracy at the national level to target communists,” he said, adding that communists were committed to safeguard democracy and secularism even by sacrificing their lives.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee came down heavily on the BJP over the incident. ”I am against the CPI(M) and Marx or Lenin are not my leaders. I have always protested against the atrocities of the CPI(M). Similarly, I will also not accept the BJP’s atrocities.
Banerjee, a known critic of the BJP, said, ”If you (BJP) think that because you have come to power in a state (Tripura), you will destroy statues of Marx, Lenin or Gandhiji, we will not accept it.”
”It is not somebody’s job to kill people or pull down the statue of an icon after coming to power in a state. We (TMC) have respect for Gandhiji, Netaji, Vivekananda, Ambedkar and Nazrul. We respect everybody because we believe in communal harmony just like the way we believe in a holistic approach in politics,” she said.
She also said her partymen never took revenge against CPM after the TMC came power in West Bengal. ”We came to power (in Bengal) after 34 years of atrocities by the Left. Our slogan was ‘Bodla noi, bodol chai’ (we want change, not revenge). That is why even after the CPI(M)’s atrocities for so many years, we have not followed the path of revenge. That is not our nature and that is not democracy,” she said.
Ripples in Tamil Nadu ?
A row erupted in Tamil Nadu over BJP leader H Raja’s remarks indicating that statues of rationalist leader E V Ramasamy “Periyar” could be the next to be pulled down after a Lenin statue was razed in Tripura. Facing wrath from several quarters, Raja deleted his Facebook post while BJP’s state unit distanced itself from the issue, saying it was his personal view.
Political parties including DMK, MDMK and the Left lashed out at Raja, a BJP National Secretary, with DMK Working President M K Stalin leading the charge seeking his detention under the ‘Goondas Act’.
“Who is Lenin and what is the connection between Lenin and India? What connection India has with Communists? Today Lenin’s statue removed in Tripura, tomorrow it will be the statue of EV Ramasamy in Tamil Nadu”, Raja had said in the Tamil post in facebook that had been deleted.
Reacting to Raja’s statement, DMK working president M K Stalin demanded the arrest of Raja under Goondas Act. “Nobody has the right to touch Periyar’s statue. He has been doing this for long time to incite violence. He should be arrested under Goondas Act and put behind bars,” Stalin said.
With PTI inputs