Cultural vandalism in the name of politics?first Tripura, now Tamil Nadu

By Prarthana Mitra

A statue of social activist and rationalist leader EV Ramasamy, better known as Periyar, was vandalised in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, on Tuesday, March 6. The incident came a day after BJP members pulled down a statue of Lenin in Tripura following the party’s victory in the state assembly polls. The police have arrested two men who they say “were drunk”, according to the Indian Express.

According to The Hindu, the vandalism of the statue came after BJP national general secretary H Raja posted on Facebook calling for the removal of Periyar’s statues. According to reports, the post on Raja’s Facebook page read: “Who is Lenin? What is his relevance in India? Why is India connected to Communism? Yesterday, Lenin statue was brought down in Tripura. Tomorrow, statues of caste fanatic E V Ramaswamy Periyar will be brought down.”

Destroying culture and history

Raja’s controversial statement was almost immediately followed by the vandalism incident in Vellore, which has enraged the local Dravidian community. Periyar, who founded the Dravida Kazhagam party and led the self-respect movement, is revered in Tamil Nadu across the political spectrum.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the incident, the BJP faction in the state has distanced itself from Raja’s remarks, calling it his “personal opinion”, while Raja has blamed his staff for the post. But this does not, in any way, exonerate the ruling party from its intolerance towards art and artistic choices that go against its principles.

It is important to first acknowledge that statues are a part of the city’s architecture, art, and history. They are integrally linked to the constitutional freedom of speech and cultural geography of the nation and its people. Reserving a sentimental value for the citizens, they are a source of pride for individuals who revere the men and women commemorated through these structures. Razing a statue not only destroys history and culture, it is also a political statement.

Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons