Stop this descent into anarchy

Deccan Herald Mar 9 2018, 01:09 IST

The vandalisation and desecration of statues, seen across the country now, is most reprehensible and should be condemned in the strongest terms. The contagion started with the toppling of a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Tripura by BJP workers celebrating the party's victory in the recent elections. The defilement spread to other states in a tit-for-tat chain reaction and statues of Dravidian ideologue Periyar and BR Ambedkar were targeted in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. A statue of Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee took the hit in Kolkata and Gandhiji was not spared in Kerala. A statue of Lord Hanuman was also reportedly defiled in a village in UP. It's not just Right vs Left, upper castes vs Dalits, Aryans vs Dravidians; all the divisions, all the venom spewing out at once, it's unthinking anarchy taking hold, the result of a combination of low politics and rogue psychology. This is most unacceptable in a democracy, where everyone and every party has a space that should be respected by others.

Statues represent ideologies, express the veneration of parties or communities for their leaders or are reminders of the services rendered by great personalities to societies and nations. Their destruction is an act of violence against history and memory, and a declaration that a rival party or group, a different idea and other leaders are not needed and will not be allowed to exist. It is an expression of the intolerance that has been rising in the country in the recent past. What is under attack is not just symbols, values and codes of democratic conduct. Elections are seen as wars, political rivals as mortal enemies. Regressive, violent and primitive passions come into play. The toppling and destruction of a symbol, which is important for the loser, is a re-enactment of the pillaging and crimes committed by victorious armies on captured territory in another era.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh have condemned the vandalism and states have been told to stop such attacks. For once, Modi has spoken forthwith and forthrightly. But it may be too late now for a party that has thrived on a supremacist ideology, hatred and violence to call back the forces it has set in motion. Witness the Governor of Tripura, a constitutional authority unable to give up his BJP robes, support the hooligans and justify the vandalism. The spirit of our founding fathers is yet to be internalised in the country, especially by those who go about mouthing slogans of destroying other parties and all that came before themselves. We were to become a pluralistic democracy, a shining example to the world. Not this. So, for the nation's sake, stop this descent into anarchy.

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