Press "Enter" to skip to content

NO LIBERTY FOR A STATUE

The toppling of Lenin’s statue and the desecration of Periyar’s statue at Vellore provoke some angry thoughts and quite a few humourous digs at the mentality of those indulging in mindless destruction

Dear Thambi,

First of all, you might wonder who the hell I am. Well, let me introduce myself. I am the (recently promoted) assistant to the Assistant Vice President at All India Association for Broken Statues (AIABS). Yes. Yes. You read that right. We run an association for the welfare of broken statues. And since Punjab National Bank won’t give us their special kind of loan (the ones which you don’t have to return), we mostly function on a small budget with limited seats.

However, this week, you people have gone berserk and been breaking more than a reasonable number of statues. (And by the way, have you noticed that while typing the word statue, autocorrect often ends up changing it to statute. I mean, what is the point of calling it autocorrect if all it can do is change it to a wrong spelling and…well…wait! I clearly am digressing, no?) So where were we? Yeah! No liberty for a statue situation. So this has unfortunately put too much unexpected burden on us. Therefore, my boss has asked me to write a mostly polite letter to you, though ideally he should be the one writing it. But as you know, we are close to the financial year’s end and I can’t afford to mess up my appraisal. So here we are.

I bumped into this colleague at the office canteen queue the other day and lamented about how Lenin’s statue was taken down in Tripura by men wearing Fanta T-shirts (later realized that they were BJP’s and not Fanta’s. Silly confusion only it was!) And my colleague naively asked why the statue of an ex-Chief minister of Tamil Nadu M Karunandhi’s son was installed in Tripura. What the hell, I thought. I had to then explain to him that Karunandhi’s son is called Stalin and not Lenin. He still looked confused, wondering what is this bizarre connection between erstwhile Soviet Union and Tamil Nadu. I had to pull him out of the queue and spend full 20 minutes to explain how a revolution in one place can inspire several others. And how using these names or installing statues as tributes can help us remember what society should aspire for. He more or less seemed convinced. Except, by the time we joined the queue back, the ladies finger poriyal was almost over. Dammit!

So just when we were wondering about the situation in Tripura, one strange man seems to have caused some havoc back home too. H Raja, BJP’s National Secretary, claimed on a social media post that ‘casteist’ Periyar EV Ramasamy’s statues in Tamil Nadu shall be broken next. Ehh? What? First of all, Periyar is a prominent social reformer in South Asia. And he spent all his life fighting against caste, gender inequality and ignorance. And you call him casteist and want to break his statues-a? Okay, just tell me this. Does the ‘H’ in H Raja stand for ‘hallucinating’ or what? Hmm? And after all this, goes on to claim that the post was not written by him but by ‘admin’. Dei, what! H Raja has employed ‘admin’ to post stuff on his FB account-a? Is this by any chance part of BJP’s new employment initiatives? I mean, how busy can he be to have an admin when his party itself only got less votes than NOTA in the last by-election. Anyhow, I don’t want his followers to come and knock on my door when I am in the bathroom. So let us leave it at that and come to the important point.

The provocation created by that inflammatory post seems to have gotten some expected results. Periyar’s statue was desecrated at Vellore in Tamil Nadu. And a day later, a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar was disfigured at Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. Shabba! Thambi, I want to ask you this. Are we living in a democratic country or inside some exaggerated, controversial period war drama by Sanjay Leela Bhansali? You can’t chumma keep breaking statues of those whose ideologies you disagree with, after every election. Just think about the number of times we conduct Parliamentary and Assembly election. Add to that the by-elections too. And think again about what I told you on the number of seats my organisation has. So go easy, pa!

I mean, in a way, it is understandable why these people are going after Periyar’s and Dr Ambedkar’s statues. They are certainly the most revolutionary leaders who shook the foundation on which our Indian society is built. No. Not ‘unity in diversity’ or ‘secular fabric’ or any such boring fables. Thambi, you can save these type of answers for your UPSC mains exam, okay-va? But the truth is, our society is primarily built on the caste structure. Which is why this week’s incidents aren’t an exception. Dr Ambedkar’s and Periyar’s statues have always been desecrated since the time they were installed. Because the presence of their statues is a mark of the spread of the revolutionary ideals they stood for. And how can a society that practices caste on a daily basis tolerate it? But at the same time, I kind of find it pointless to break them too. You break one Dr Ambedkar or Periyar statue and hundreds of theirs crop up. So what you are doing, no? Reminds me of one famous saying in Tamil. Goes like, ‘The only outcome of a dog barking at the sun is that the dog would be exhausted at the end!’ Also, wait. If you are a dog lover or a PETA activist, don’t be randomly offended now. It was just a metaphor. No real or imaginary dog was hurt in the usage of this metaphor. So take it easy, Urvasi.

Some people are trying to use this opportunity to act smart and are saying if Periyar and Dr Ambedkar were themselves against idol worship, why build these statues for them. Hello, thambi, what are you even saying? You should first understand that these statues aren’t like some religion-based God’s statues that are created for the sole purpose of worship. The installation of the statues of these leaders in public spaces by common people is in itself an act of assertion, a fight for equality, a source of inspiration, an effort to reassure everyone that we are equal and a symbol to remind us what we should work towards. It is not idol worship, but an act of liberty. If you don’t get it also it is fine. But just drink that filter coffee, read your newspaper and be quiet. Chumma don’t make random arguments!

And whether you like it or not, the statues of Periyar and Dr. Ambedkar will only keep sprouting. Also, one day, you will get a WhatsApp forward in your family group of an image taken by NASA where all these statues can be seen across the country. The image will be fake only. But the statues will be real.

So that’s most of what I wanted to say. If you are annoyed with anything I said, I suggest you tear this letter and put it in a nearby waste bin (Always remember to segregate your waste. Paper goes in dry waste even if this letter made you emotional and you cried enough to make it wet). Instead of doing that, don’t randomly arrive at the comment section to abuse my family members and distant relatives (I prefer to be the only one abusing them) or write long letters to Newslaundry threatening to unsubscribe from their page. All that would be very childish da, thambi.

Okay, it is time for my evening tea and onion pakoda. And remember what I said: Break hearts, not statues.

Mikka nandri. Tata for now.

Me only

Assistant to the Assistant Vice President

All India Association for Broken Statues (AIABS)