The truth is that the Hindu Right demolished the statues of Lenin and Periyar because both subscribed to the idea of equality, of creating a non-hierarchical society. To such a quest the RSS, evidently, is bitterly opposed.
Bharatiya Janata Party national general secretary Ram Madhav’s piece in the IndianExpress titled ‘No Mean Victory’, foretold the violence of Tripura has been witnessing ever since his party swept to power on March 3. Explaining how the BJP scripted its victory in Tripura, Madhav spoke of the “violence, intimidation and an atmosphere of threat and oppression” that pervaded the state under the Left rule. He quoted a diplomat who sent him a message saying, “The world needs fewer Communists.”
Presumably, the BJP in Tripura has taken the diplomat’s message to Madhav quite literally – they have attacked the cadres and offices of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), at places even occupying them. The gratuitous, grotesque form that the violence in Tripura has taken is best exemplified by BJP workers bulldosing the Communist icon and inspiration, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, in the town of Belonia, severing his head from the statue and then playing football with it.
Typically, the BJP ascribed the bulldozing of Lenin to an “overflow of anger”, precisely the argument it offered to reduce to rubble the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. The Hindu Right’s anger is quick to overflow every time a person ferrying cattle is lynched or a Hindu girl marries a Muslim boy. The Hindu Right seems in a constant state of simmer at what Muslim rulers did to India centuries ago – destroyed temples, raped women, converted Hindus – who now must be brought back into the fold of Hinduism through a process benignly called ghar wapsi (a homecoming).
The Hindu Right must have an inexhaustible lust for violence to decapitate the statue of Lenin. In ‘No Mean Victory’, Madhav credits US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for “decimating Communism.” A word such as defeat or vanquish just wouldn’t do for Madhav. He predicts Reagan and Thatcher’s task is most likely to be completed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. The violence of language has sought an expression in action, symbolically and substantively.
Before Modi fulfills Madhav’s dream of decimating communism, including statues of communist icons, he should perhaps know that it is possible to sight Lenin in every Indian’s dreamland called the US. For instance, he is atop an apartment building in New York, gazing into the horizon. He reached there through a rather circuitous route, his 18-foot statue commissioned by the erstwhile USSR.
But before the statue could be sent overseas, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Two American developers found Lenin junked outside Moscow. They ferried him over to the US and installed it on the roof of red square building in New York in 1994. For 22 years, the “quirky Lenin statue” became a landmark until, in September 2016, Red Square changed hands.
The new owners, for whatever reasons, brought down the statue, not violently, but with due care and diligence. Last year, Lenin was shifted to 178 Norfolk, a property owned by Michael Rosen, who had also developed Red Square. After a new plinth was built, the statue of Lenin was raised on it. No right-wingers, of whom there is no dearth in the US, chanted slogans against the statuesque rehabilitation of Lenin, let alone seek to disfigure him.
Lenin’s statues were indeed brought down in several countries that were once part of the USSR or reeled under its influence. In Ukraine, for instance, hundreds of Lenin’s statues were either demolished or removed. These countries believed they had been under the occupation of Communist Russia and, in their flush of freedom, sought to remove the symbols of socialism, of which Lenin’s statue was one. He was a reminder to them of their grim and bloody past.
Though Madhav applauds Thatcher for decimating communism, he needs to acquaint himself with the history of Lenin’s bust in London’s Islington Museum. The UK government commissioned the bust during the Second World War as a tribute to the Soviet Union inflicting heavy losses on Hitler’s army. Unveiled in 1942 and placed in Holford Square, the votaries of fascism inscribed anti-communist, anti-racist slogans at the site. It prompted the government to shift the bust to Islington Town Hall and then to the museum.
It is beyond the Sangh to appreciate the nuances of history. For its activists, history is a morality play, a story of villains and heroes, all of whom Hindus, worthy of being extolled for waging a relentless battle against Muslim and Christian conquerors. India’s communists are incapable of appreciating the Hindu heroes of the past because their sensibilities are rooted in an ideology spawned in the West. It is a travesty of justice that the communists don’t see value in, say, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism, regardless of it being an intellectual patchwork that is as confusing as it is inelegant.
The Sangh forgets that India’s communists may subscribe to the ideas of Marx and Lenin, but they didn’t come to power through coups or a violent revolution. It is the people who voted for them. India was the first country in the world to elect a communist government – in Kerala in 1957. Tripura and West Bengal, too, have repeatedly voted the Left to power. When it was voted out in these states, it didn’t resort to essentially immoral methods of grabbing power, as the BJP has been guilty of in the Northeast.