It suddenly seems like a miracle that a statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka Lenin, survives in the heart of the national Capital.
The life-size alloy statue in Nehru Park was unveiled in November 1987 by the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov. The BJP first came to power in Delhi six years later, but no BJP worker touched any statue in the city, let alone Lenin's.
Alas, Belonia town in Tripura wasn't extended the same courtesy by BJP workers. Within two days of a BJP-led alliance storming to power in the north-eastern state so far known as the last bastion of the Left in India, ecstatic BJP workers bulldozed a statue of Lenin in the town.
In South Tripura’s Belonia, a statue of Lenin razed amid chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. This, less than 48 hours after the BJP stormed to power ending a 25-year-long Left rule.— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) March 5, 2018
More here: https://t.co/Q7a4EsiuSh pic.twitter.com/335YDvXTb7
In video footage of the incident, men wearing BJP caps can be seen cheering as a bulldozer topples the statue, with chants of “Bharat mata ki jai” reverberating. BJP south district secretary Raju Nath has reportedly said that the statue fell because of an “overflow of anger”.
Nath said there was “resentment” against the statue for years because Lenin was a “foreigner”. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy supported the argument, even calling Lenin a terrorist.
Interestingly, the state's Governor, Tathagata Roy, also nearly justified the act, saying “What one democratically elected government can do another democratically elected government can undo”.
What one democratically elected government can do another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa https://t.co/Og8S1wjrJs— Tathagata Roy (@tathagata2) March 5, 2018
The razing of the statue and the defence of the act by BJP leaders has come as a clear evidence of the kind of politics the party believes in. Tripura was a shock win for the BJP, with the party having had zero presence in the state assembly so far.
Given that background, exultation is understandable. However, the form of celebration is what distinguishes BJP from others. One need not be an admirer of Lenin to realise that the destruction of his statue is an indicator of the hatred the Sangh Parivar harbours towards rival ideologies.
The act harks back to similar moments in Indian as well as world history, all of them potent symbols of intolerance and barbarism – the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001, the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue by Iraqi civilians and US troops in 2003 and the destruction of the Babri Masjid by Hindu radicals in 1992.
With this act in Tripura, the BJP has revived the accusations of intolerance that led to the protest movements against the Narendra Modi government in 2015. This has also signaled an ominous start of BJP's rule in the state, coming as it does just a day before the party's selection of its CM-designate.
The CPM, thrown out of power, has already alleged that its workers and offices are being attacked across the state. Just three days after the election results, Section 144 has already been imposed in parts of the state following reports of violence.
From here on, among BJP's foremost challenges will be to ensure rule of law in the state. For that, BJP will have to start respecting other ideologies, something that its slogans like “Congress-mukt Bharat” and “Vaampanth-mukt Bharat” have no room for.
If the Britishers can tolerate Mahatma Gandhi's statue just outside their Parliament and India can tolerate V D Savarkar's statue inside its Parliament, why can't BJP tolerate statues of Lenin, Nehru, Ambedkar, Periyar and all others in whose name several BJP leaders keep issuing threats?