Of all the statues torn down last week in various parts of India, tearing down of Lenin’s statue, in Belonia, Tripura, which triggered a series of reactions across India where mobs brought down statues of icons –was the most significant one. The differing ideologies that the icons represented notwithstanding all of them had something in common – they were all Indians. Lenin was the only one of foreign origin. India is not the only place in the world to host statues of icons of foreign origin.
You will find statues of foreign icons with global stature in all countries. For example, there are several countries in the West that have statues of Mahatma Gandhi. But there is a difference even between these globally celebrated icons and Lenin.
They largely represent an apolitical message of universal humanism; Lenin represents a specific political ideology, which many people across the world associate with severest form of authoritarianism, disregard for human liberties, lack of economic opportunities and its attendant problems and so on.
There is no denying that destroying the statues was an act of vandalism but to the extent that it was an effort to wipe out the remnants of a political ideology opposed to yours, it is not something that the Left is not guilty of, only their methods are more gentlemanly and sophisticated.
There is almost no party that can equal Left’s hostility towards icons (both political and otherwise) who represent a different strain of political belief or have a towering stature in the states Left rule. While the Left ruled Bengal, Subhash Chandra Bose and Tagore were always fair games.
But an outrage towards a political belief which represents hegemony was only one component of the anger which led to bringing down the Lenin statue in Belonia. The other was a sense of despair and helplessness lack of opportunities create in a Left-ruled state among the youth.
And Tripura has all the hallmarks of a Left-ruled state. Most people are employed with the state government and there are no private sector employment opportunities – which means majority of the youth population is jobless. This is not a new problem in Tripura; it has coexisted with Left rule for several years, in fact, decades. Left has ruled the state for roughly 20 years, which means for most of its time in power it has sat on the problem and let it grow.
It’s not as if the next government will be able to change everything overnight but at least a beginning has been made. One of the emotions that swayed the delirious mob which exhorted as the statue of the Russian revolutionary was bulldozed to ground was hope.