News Frontliner Web Desk, 15 May 2019: Whether it’s the demolished statue of Lenin in Tripura or the recent destruction of Bengal’s iconic poet Sukanta’s statue or yesterday’s attack on Bengali polymath Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue, the one common political party which has been behind this is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But yesterday’s demonic act is perhaps the result of two rounds of violent clashes, including arson, between Trinamool Congress and BJP supporters, during BJP president Amit Shah’s mega road-show in central Kolkata.
The afternoon road-show by the BJP chief Amit Shah, which was scheduled to start from Shahid Minar had to be changed to Dharmatola later due to lack of permission; the rally was supposed to end at Swami Vivekananda’s house in Manicktala. When the grand rally was passing by Calcutta University on College Street in the evening, a group of Trinamool supporters rushed out and showed black flag shouting “Amit Shah Go Back” slogan. Agitated, the BJP activists hurled water bottles and pelted stones on them.
Within no time, the area turned into a war zone with both sides engaged in a street-fight. The second round of clash unfolded at around 6.45 pm when the road-show was near Vidyasagar College (New Campus) at 17 Bidhan Sarani in Amherst Street area. Violence erupted after stones were pelted on the procession allegedly by Trinamool supporters from the college campus.
In retaliation, BJP workers torched two motorbikes and a cycle standing at the college gate. Storming the college with sticks and rods they went on the rampage and triggered arson. Debris of broken glass littered the lobby of the college where a bust of Vidyasagar, a noted teacher, philosopher and a key figure of Bengal Renaissance, was smashed to smithereens.
As the violence broke out, Mr Shah was escorted to safety by police but was forced to cut short the rally. Soon, both BJP and TMC started lambasting each other for the act.
Lambasting Mr Shah, Ms Banerjee said, “Each vote against the BJP will be revenge for attack on Vidyasagar’s statue. Mr Shah brought people from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in his rally. The BJP workers broke Vidyasagar’s statue to pieces. Such a shameful incident never happened in Kolkata earlier. It will take a second to take over the BJP office if we want.”
TMC MP from Rajya Sabha for West Bengal, Derek O’ Brien blamed the BJP for it and said “Bengal will never forgive”.
“Desperate BJP goons from outside Bengal smash statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar inside the college. Violent mob of BJP ‘outsiders’ in presence of Pukeworthy Shah. How little you know about Bengal, its rich history, its culture. Bengal will never forgive for what you did today,” Derek said in his Tweet.
The BJP president said, “I appeal to the people of Bengal to give their reply to violence through their votes peacefully in the last phase of the election. Defeating the Trinamool is necessary to end violence in Bengal forever.”
Sitaram Yechury, who was in the city yesterday to campaign for Left candidates slammed the BJP-RSS for vandalising the statue. He tweeted, “BJP-RSS think nothing of when they vandalise the historic Vidyasagar College, break Vidyasagar statue. This is their advocacy of India’s civilisational heritage? Attacking knowledge is central to getting their poisonous project going. Bengal will reject the destruction they offer.”
CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra held both BJP and TMC equally responsible for the incident as both the parties have gathered goons to create a unruly situation; as an attempt of polarizing voters. He called for all Left minds to take the responsibility of restoring the communal harmony.
The demolition of the statue of one of Bengal’s most respected teacher and social reformer who took a key role in widow marriage is not just a act of violence but something much more frightening. Vidyasagar, who condemned various Hindu rules and rituals is seen by this right-wing party as a voice against Hinduism.
For most in Bengal, the news of Vidyasagar statue being broken, created a feeling of pain and anguish. The arrival of an authoritarian politics intoxicated with power and totalitarian thinking, is the biggest challenge in the country today. All those who have not yet lost their sanity must need to do their bit in restoring the spirit of pluralism and ought to engage in critical reflection for resisting the politics of growing intolerance.