According to an article in the New York Times in June 2016, around 100 monuments of Lenin have been removed from Ukraine in the last couple of years.
In Ukraine, many people see Lenin as a symbol and reminder of the dictatorial communist rule of the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1991.
On the other hand, India has democratically elected communist governments in three states since independence. Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. Currently, the CPI (M) is only in power in Kerala. On Saturday, the Bharatiya Janata Party won the Tripura state assembly elections, bringing an end to 25-year-old communist rule in the state led by Manik Sarkar.
However, the fact that the people of Tripura had wanted the communists to rule the state for 25 years reportedly could not prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party workers from demolishing a statue of Lenin after they came to power in the state. On Monday, BJP supporters and workers allegedly took part in the demolition of a Lenin statue in Belonia, Tripura. Chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ could be heard in the background.
Another statue of Lenin was also been demolished in Sabroom, Tripura before this, according to the district superintendent of police.
Following this, the video of the demolition of the statue in Belonia went viral and resulted in a strange but perhaps not so unexpected series of events. BJP leader from Tamil Nadu and the national secretary of the political party wrote on Facebook, “Who is Lenin? What is the relevance he holds in India? What is the link between communism and India? Lenin’s statues were destroyed in Tripura, tomorrow, in Tamil Nadu, casteist Periyar’s statues will be destroyed.”
There was a huge backlash from the online community after this and he eventually went on to distance himself from the post by saying that the page is managed by his administrators and that he had no role to play in the controversial post. He also deleted his post.
However, it turned out to be a little too late. Periyar’s statue was vandalised on Tuesday night. According to the police, there were two culprits – one of them was a BJP worker and the other his friend, a CPI worker.
Following this, on Wednesday, petrol bombs were hurled at the BJP office in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Four men were involved and have not yet been identified.
The virus of statue vandalism spread its tentacles to Kolkata, West Bengal as well. The statue of SP Mukherjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh was vandalised and defaced in Tollygunge, south Kolkata today morning. The six people who have been arrested belong to a student outfit which is believed to be pro-Maoist.
Last night, a statue of Ambedkar had also been vandalised in Meerut.
The incidents have turned out to be so serious that both the Home Ministry and party president Amit Shah had to issue statements on Twitter regarding the issue.
Given the chain of events which has resulted in the vandalism of statues of three different important personalities across the ideological spectrum, we must engage with one particular question.
According to historian Lucia Allais, “Making sculptures into public monuments conveys the idea that history is made by individuals. We have a very individualized sense of personal agency and activism today.”
According to journalist Peter Maass, one of the reasons why US marines took down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 2003 when the USA invaded Iraq was because they were aware of the mass appeal the statue had.
One must remember that irrespective of the ideology of the leader or the geographical region from where they may have led the movement, statues are an integral part of street politics which are constantly built and toppled over to constantly change the socio-political narrative.