Vidyasagar's Statue Vandalised: But do people really care about statues?
Why do we care about a statue only when we hear it's been destroyed? What does this tell us about our attitude towards those now cast in stone?
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Before Tuesday evening, when a group of yet unknown vandals smashed Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue in Kolkata, did they even know who he was? Did anyone from the TMC or the BJP or any political party ever pay true homage to Vidyasagar’s statue by celebrating it and spreading its significance far and wide?
The answer is a big ‘NO’.
We only talk about statues when they are damaged or they no longer exist.
“Our rally was going in front of Vidyasagar College, we don’t know who has broken the statue? Vidyasagar was such a well-known figure,” said Roopa Ganguly, BJP leader in West Bengal. Well, that’s enough for history lessons. The only person smiling must be Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar himself whom we have put in the headlines a full 199 years he was born.
A bust, in bits: Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue was brought down after clashes erupted between BJP and TMC workers. (Source: ANI)
Politics over statues
Every Bengali child is introduced to his or her Borno Porichoy, the Bengali alphabet, with an image of Vidyasagar adorning its cover.
Is it thus sheer ignorance that we have a statue in the middle of a college premises which is recalled only after it has been damaged? Interestingly, intense politics is being played over Vidyasagar now. The Congress, BJP, CPI (M) and TMC, all parties are stating sanctimonies such as, 'The destruction of Vidyasagar’s statue is an insult to the people of Bengal.'
But who brought down the statue? And why?
Not immovable: Lenin's statue was brought down, allegedly by BJP supporters in 2018. (Photo: Twitter)
This is not even the first time a statue has been damaged. A life-size statue of rationalist leader and Dravidian movement founder E V Ramasamy — popularly known as Periyar — was found vandalised at Aranthangi in 2019. The statue of Periyar, located near the government hospital in Aranthangi town, was found with its head dislodged and lying on the ground.
Guru Dronacharya's statue was found missing from where it stood, only to be found a day later, broken in parts. (Photo: Author)
A year back, not far from Delhi in Gurugram, Guru Dronacharya’s statue — on the basis of which the name ‘Gurugram’ itself was kept — was vandalised and removed from Rajiv Chowk where it stood.
The statue was found a day later — in the horticulture department, to the amazement of local administration.
Ambedkar statue's hand and head were found to be missing in Allahabad. (Photo: ANI)
In 2018, a statue of Bhimrao Ambedkar was found decapitated in Allahabad while another had its right arm and nose broken in Lucknow. A statue of Russian communist revolutionary Lenin was razed in Belonia town of Tripura, 90 km from Agartala, allegedly by BJP supporters amid chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" last year.
Time and again, statues have been damaged but we seem to forget their greater relevance. More than the statues installed at different places, we should follow the teachings of the great people whose statues have at all been put up. Statues are fine, but once they are installed, they should also be looked after — otherwise, please don’t put them up.
The truth is — we as a country really don’t care about statues of famous people until someone chops off their arm, head or nose.
There is a simple enough solution though.
Pay respect to the living first — then the ones standing in stone will automatically not be hurt.