Dravidian leader and social reformer Periyar’s (EVR Ramasamy) statue was vandalised in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, on Tuesday night, hours after BJP National Secretary H Raja posted on Facebook: “Who is Lenin? What is the connection between him (Lenin) and India? What connection between communism and India? Lenin’s statue was broken down in Tripura. Today it is Lenin’s statue in Tripura and tomorrow it will be the statue of caste fanatic E V Ramasamy.” The incident, shameful as it was, elicited furious tweets, posts on social media and statements demanding action against the BJP leader.
Newly turned politician and founder of Makkal Needhi Maiam, Kamal Haasan, in a press conference on Wednesday, stated that this situation has been created to divert attention from the Cauvery issue and the fact that the Centre has not taken any initiative to constitute the Cauvery management board as directed by the Supreme Court.
“We Tamilians are enough to protect him (Periyar). His stature and height is beyond the reach of such talks of vandalism,” he said during the press conference in Chennai.
There is no need to deploy police for protection of #PeriyarStatue. We Tamilians will protect it.I feel that this issue is just to divert attention from Cauvery issue (formation of Cauvery management board): Kamal Hassan pic.twitter.com/88aZ7gHqcL
— ANI (@ANI) March 7, 2018
Actor Sathyaraj, in a video statement, demanded legal action against H Raja and added that Periyar is not a statue, not a mortal made of blood and flesh but an ideology that advocates a casteless, equal society. “Periyar is not a statue, is not a name, is not a body, not a human form but it is an ideology. He does not merely live as a statue, he lives in our hearts. I want to tell you that you cannot remove the Periyar who lives in our hearts with any position, power, or army,” he said.
— Sibi (Sathya)raj (@Sibi_Sathyaraj) March 7, 2018
Prakash Raj, Khushbu Sundar, Vetri Maaran, Udhaynidhi Stalin and many others joined the chorus condemning the incident.
#leninstatue #periyarstatue #spmukherjeestatue vandalised…Whats your agenda..what are you teaching our children ??please stop this statue politics.. violence breeds violence ..What was your election manifesto ..development or settling scores and goondaism .??….#justasking
— Prakash Raj (@prakashraaj) March 7, 2018
— Vetri Maaran (@VetriMaaran) March 7, 2018
any kind of vandalism is unacceptable..if BJP is behaving like rogue n hooligans, let sensibility guide us..hurling of petrol bombs is not the answer to vent your anger..let us stand united and against those who think the unity n sanity of TN can be broken by religion..
— khushbusundar (@khushsundar) March 7, 2018
How it all began
The BJP toppled the 25-year-old CPI(M) hegemony over Tripura in the recently held Assembly election. As a mark of celebration, many members of the saffron party, chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ brought down a 11.5-feet fibre statue of Russian Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in Belonia, Tripura on Monday evening, plunging the state in post-poll violence.
Defending the action, H Raja instigated further trouble by his half-witted Facebook post alluding that Periyar’s statue will be attacked next. Following an attack on the BJP office in Tamil Nadu, H Raja retracted his earlier post, expressing regret and stating that damaging statues of Periyar is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, with the uproar created over the vandalisation of the statue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have issued statements that measures have been taken to prevent such incidents in the future and strong legal action will be taken against the perpetrators.
The recent issue on destroying of statues is extremely unfortunate. We as a party do not support the bringing down of anybody’s statue.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 7, 2018
I have spoken to the party units in both Tamil Nadu and Tripura. Any person associated with the BJP found to be involved with destroying any statue will face severe action from the party.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 7, 2018
Since Tuesday night, Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundarajan has expelled party functionary R Muthuraman, who was arrested for damaging the Periyar statue, while the DMK cadres have taken to the streets protesting against H Raja’s comments.
The unfortunate incident has given fuel to the political parties of Tamil Nadu to intensify the row and agitate against the ruling party at the Centre. In a country where a dispute over the demolition of a mosque or building of a temple (depending on which side you are on) drags on for over 25 years, innocuous statues get more attention than real issues. Instead of getting parochial and trying to appropriate ideologies, shouldn’t the focus be on creating a fearless society where Lenin, Periyar and Veer Savarkar or their statues can co-exist?