When I saw the morning newspaper, I felt terrible. A statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in Tripura had been razed down by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers using a JCB machine. Not just that, those responsible for the act proceeded to play ‘football’ with Lenin’s head.
Tripura had a Left government for 25 years and the statue of Lenin was installed during that time. Lenin is undoubtedly Communism’s biggest leader and the prime symbol of the 1917 Communist Revolution.
What Lenin Stood for
After Karl Marx, the second most influential figure of the last century was Lenin. Communist revolutions in other parts of the world were inspired by him. India too has a fair share of his supporters. Irrespective of how many factions the communists might be divided into, none of them has ever discredited Lenin. Even today, long after the fall of Communism, people still respect Lenin.
I don’t need to repeat that I have never been a follower of communism. In my student days, many friends tried to get me to join CPI-CPM-CPI(ML), but they were unsuccessful in their attempts. While I liked the struggle of the proletariat in the Left, and that they had dreamed of building a classless society, I never understood the part about armed revolution.
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The use of weapons to bring about social change was something I did not agree with. I viewed Mahatma Gandhi as my hero. Despite all his flaws, I liked the philosophy of ahimsa. His emphasis on spirituality over religion attracted me.
But despite all this, I have always believed Lenin to be one of the three most influential leaders of the last century. I am also aware of the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the dissolution of communist governments in countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania, there too Lenin’s statues were subjected to similar indignities.
Other Acts of Vandalism
It is also true that when American forces toppled the Saddam Hussein government in Iraq, his statue was also similarly razed and kicked around like a football. The American media widely broadcast that image, and it was used to prove just how fed up the people were with Saddam’s dictatorship, and how the American forces had ‘freed’ the Iraqi people.
It was only later that it was proven that then US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had lied to the world about Saddam Hussein developing nuclear weapons. Their aim was to take revenge for the 9/11 attacks, to tell the world what the result of a terrorist attack on America could be.
Similarly, the one picture I recall most vividly from when the Taliban occupied Afghanistan is of the giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan valley being blown up with dynamite. The monumental, 4th and 5th century statues, were blown up simply because according to the then Taliban chief, Mullah Omar, they were against Islamic tradition.
The entire world was shocked at the destruction of these historical artefacts and beautiful examples of ‘Gandhara’ art. Saddam Hussein was a dictator; he had oppressed his people.
But the Buddhists of Bamiyan hadn’t hurt anyone. They simply underlined the fact that the silk route of Afghanistan was a Buddhist hub. There was no reason to hate the lifeless statues. But then, why were the statues blown up?
Blowing up the statues was a symbol of hate. A large section in the Middle East saw the treatment towards Saddam Hussein as an assault on Arab nationalism, Arab nationality and Arab identity.
India’s Right-Wing’s Bitter Ties With Communism
The BJP and the RSS have always shared a bitter relationship with communism. In his book, RSS leader Golwalkar includes communism as one of the enemies of the country. According to him, communism is a foreign ideology. Its commitment is to Soviet Russia and China, and not to India.
He saw it as a power that would destabilise India on the directions of Russia and China. This is why, ever since thr BJP/RSS have come to power at the Centre, they have been likening communism with the act of treason.
The attack on JNU, using Kashmir as an excuse, is no coincidence. The JNU was declared the ‘hub of terrorists.’ The attempt on Kanhaiya Kumar’s life inside a court complex and then the lack of action against the attackers clearly shows that it part of a well-conceived strategy.
Similarly, students and officials with communist affiliations in Delhi’s Ramjas College were also attacked by members of RSS’ student wing. For many days, a kind of terror was unleashed.
Here too, no action was taken against the perpetrators. While it is entirely possible that some people may be unhappy with communism in Tripura after 25 years, what was the fault of JNU and Ramjas College in the earlier instances of violence?
‘Treat Others as You’d Want to be Treated’
The BJP shouldn’t forget that it is the people who have given them an opportunity, but even in this election, the Left got the same 43 percent votes as them. They also shouldn’t forget that India cannot be compared to either Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, Bamiyan, or even the former communist states.
India is a democracy. Regime changes in India do not happen over the barrel of a gun nor is there a tradition of forcefully toppling governments.
Today BJP/RSS have pulled down Lenin’s statue. If five years from now the Left assumes power, will the statues of all BJP/RSS leaders in Tripura be similarly razed? Do the RSS and the BJP want to establish this as a tradition?
Do RSS/BJP want their prominent leaders to be meted out a similar treatment as Lenin in states like Orissa, Bengal, Punjab, Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi where the BJP isn’t in power?
The BJP/RSS should also not forget that during the Vajpayee government, a picture of RSS/BJP ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar adorned a wall in Parliament despite widespread protests. In 2004, BJP lost power. But the picture remained.
This, despite Savarkar’s name being associated with the assassination of Gandhi. So, should the Congress government have removed Savarkar’s picture?
No Place for Hate in a Democracy
There should be no place for ego and hate in a democracy. But since 2014, the way in which minorities and liberals have been attacked by ‘fringe elements’ is worrying. Whether it is the killing of Pehlu Khan and Junaid or the brutal attack on Dalits in Una over gau raksha — it is all giving rise to a culture of hooliganism.
In the long run, the RSS/BJP will have to pay for this.
(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)
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