On March 6 evening, as news began to filter in of a Lenin statue being razed in south Tripura, Rajat Sethi, a member of BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s team which had just conquered Tripura, tweeted, “Stalin falls in Tripura!”
In his trademark waistcoat and jacket, the raised right arm pointing to another dawn, it is hard to mistake the likeness of the man who brought the revolution to Russia in 1917 and changed the world.
Perhaps it was a slip of Sethi’s typing fingers that caused a mix-up between Lenin and Stalin. After all, Sethi’s Twitter bio hashtags his membership of the world’s premier universities – Harvard, MIT and IIT – and it is unlikely that any of his alma maters could have committed this academic blasphemy, even if it was on social media.
So whether it was the sheer euphoria of the moment or not that persuaded Sethi to mix up his suffixes and therefore his Russian revolutionaries -– Len-in, Stal-in –- the question remains why the BJP celebrated the vandalism of the Lenin statue for a full day before Ram Madhav deleted his own tweet on the subject.
What made Ram Madhav state that “private people” erected Lenin’s statue in southern Tripura’s Belonia town and that they were the ones who brought it down?
Perhaps the BJP realised that it didn’t want to be seen to be associated with such a dastardly act. Not that Ram Madhav’s tweet did anything to diminish the enthusiasm of BJP supporters who ensured that #BJPFightsLenin trended all day on March 7.
Much of the social media angst was about why Lenin, a “foreigner”, was being feted in India – its proponents forgetting very quickly that BJP leaders led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been travelling the world in an effort to bring FDI home.
Another strain on social media stated that “Communism is evil,” a mind-boggling characterisation of a school of thought which is moreover thoroughly ironic, considering that words like “angelic” and “devilish” were appropriated into daily usage from the Christian church and communism kept a determined distance from them in its heyday.
Perhaps what Sethi and his fellow travellers simply meant to say was, “good riddance” to the CPI(M) government in Tripura which had ruled for 25 years or so. Fact is, the BJP’s extraordinary efforts in cementing alliances with parties in opposition to the Left in Tripura, could not have succeeded without a series of small and big pushes by its own cadres and those of the RSS.
The BJP’s victory is even sweeter in Tripura because this is the first time since 2014 that it directly fought a major election against the Left. (Other states have been won by defeating the Congress or other regional parties.) The BJP, which is a cadre-based party, surely recognises the discipline and organisation that goes into the building of another cadre-based party, like the CPI(M), which ran Tripura for so long. Whipping it in a free and fair democratic contest, along with emptying the Congress’ entire vote bank, must be especially welcome.
But to topple the statue of a man who popularised the slogan, “Workers of the world, unite,’ with a bulldozer seems incongruous. Especially when none other than Mahatma Gandhi had described the Russian Revolution as the “greatest event of the present century.” India, said Gandhi, was encouraged to move to this “Russian remedy against tyranny.”
Remember that it was in April 1917, mere months before D-Day in October (November in the Julian calendar) of the same year, that Gandhi embarked upon his Champaran satyagraha. Historian Anil Nauriya points out the high degree of synchronisation between Champaran and Lenin’s own ideas of bringing the revolution up to speed later in October.
Indian newspapers, in the run-up to October 1917, were full of entreaties that Indian freedom fighters, both “Moderates” and “Extremists” in the Congress party, shelve their hesitations and adopt the methods practiced by the Russians. The ‘Yugantar’ newspaper pointed out that “not much physical strength was required to shoot Europeans.”
According to the ‘Indian Sociologist’ in December 1907 “…the only methods which can bring the English to their senses are the Russian methods vigorously and incessantly applied until the English relax their tyranny and are driven out of the country.”
Within a few months, on April 30, 1908, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose threw a bomb – much like Bhagat Singh, an admirer of Lenin, would do a few years hence — on a carriage in Muzaffarpur so as to kill the chief Bengal presidency magistrate Douglas Kingsford, but killed two women instead.
The Bengali newspaper, ‘Kal,’ said in praise: “The people are prepared to do anything for the sake of Swaraj (self-rule)…they have no dread of British power…”
The two were caught by the police and while Chaki committed suicide, Bose was hanged. But not before Lokmanya Tilak defended the young revolutionaries, for which he was sentenced to six years imprisonment in a jail in Burma.
A few days later, Lenin published an article titled, ‘Inflammable material in world politics,’ in which he said that the Indian masses were rising against their colonisers and the British were “demonstrating what brutes” they are by putting down the Indian revolutionaries with such a heavy hand.
“The infamous sentence pronounced by the British jackals on the Indian democrat Tilak” would push the Indians further towards political mass struggle. The “British regime in India is doomed,” Lenin added.
“There is no end to the acts of violence and plunder which goes under the name of the British system of government in India,” Lenin pointed out, “Nowhere in the world – with the exception, of course of Russia – will you find such abject mass poverty, such chronic starvation among the people.
Lenin went on: “The most liberal and radical personalities of free Britain…become regular Genghis Khans when appointed to govern India, and are capable of sanctioning every means of “pacifying” the population in their charge, even to the extent of flogging political protestors!”
Perhaps the BJP should re-read beyond the catchy slogan or the 280-character debate before consigning one of the world’s greatest minds, Vladimir Ilyich, to the dustbin of history?
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