Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has come down heavily on incidents of vandalism of statues of leaders in various parts of the country and took up the matter with Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The Home Ministry issued two strongly worded advisories to State governments to prevent such incidents from occurring. In an official statement Prime Minister Modi was said to have strongly condemned such incidents of vandalism and assured stern action would be taken against those found guilty.
Following the BJP’s victory in the Assembly polls in Tripura, a statue of late Soviet leader V.I. Lenin in Belonia town in the State had been vandalised.
Following this, a statue of Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was defaced in West Bengal. What added fuel to the fire was a Facebook post (now deleted and denied) from the account of BJP’s national secretary H. Raja that statues of Dravidian ideologue Periyar in Tamil Nadu be defaced too. The government and the BJP strongly condemned the incidents at the highest level as the issue appeared to be gaining traction across the country.
A statue of Periyar in Vellore in Tamil Nadu was found vandalised following which the BJP’s office in Coimbatore was attacked with a petrol bomb early. No casualties were reported in the attack but the issue had acquired proportions that were alarming for both the government and the BJP.
Tamil Nadu BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan expelled R. Muthuraman, a party functionary arrested for damaging a Periyar statue in Vellore district soon after this admonishment from the party high command.
The Union Home Ministry said that District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police would be held “personally responsible” if statues of political leaders and icons were vandalised in their jurisdictions.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to political parties to ensure that those found desecrating statues were dealt with strictly.
The BJP swung into damage control mode as there was a severe backlash to its supporters allegedly bringing down statues of Lenin in Tripura and a Facebook post by its national secretary H. Raja asking for the defacement of Periyar statues.
Party president Amit Shah spoke to the leaders of the Tripura and Tamil Nadu State units to counsel peace and seek action against those who were party to any defacement. “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,” he tweeted.