Mookerjee's bust vandalised in Kol; PM, Shah condemn razing of icons' statues
Kolkata/Chennai/New Delhi, Mar 7 : A bust of Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee was vandalised in Kolkata today, allegedly by Left supporters, an obvious act of retribution following the razing of statues of Soviet icon Vladimir Illyich Lenin in Tripura, officials said.
As an unseemly fallout of the BJP's historic triumph in the Left bastion of Tripura, suspected right-wing activists had pulled down two statues of Lenin at different places in the tiny north-eastern state.
Today, seven people belonging to a Left-leaning group called 'Radical' vandalised the bust of Mookerjee in south Kolkata. All the seven, including a woman, were arrested, Kolkata police commissioner Rajiv Kumar said.
The incident also followed desecration of a bust of Dravidian movement founder E V Ramasamy Periyar in Tamil Nadu's Vellore after a Facebook post by a senior BJP leader. The incident triggered widespread protests across the state .
Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the incidents of vandalism of statues and warned of stern action against those found guilty.
The prime minister also spoke to Home Minister Rajnath Singh about it and expressed his strong disapproval of such incidents, according to an official statement in New Delhi.
"The MHA has asked the states that they must take all necessary measures to prevent such incidents," a Home Ministry statement said, adding the state governments were told to sternly deal with the offenders.
"I appeal to everyone, all parties, that anyone indulging in such acts should be dealt with strictly. These incidents can never be justified," Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters outside Parliament.
BJP chief Amit Shah termed the desecration of Lenin's statues in Tripura and Periyar's bust in Tamil Nadu "extremely unfortunate", and asserted that any party member found involved in destroying a statue will face severe action.
In a series of tweets, Shah distanced the BJP from the vandalism after a few party leaders appeared to endorse the incidents, and said his organisation believes a wide range of ideas and ideologies can co-exist in India.
"The recent issue on destroying of statues is extremely unfortunate. We as a party do not support the bringing down of anybody's statue. 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 said.
He, however, said the BJP will not take action against its national secretary H Raja, whose controversial Facebook post was seen to have incited party activists to vandalise Periyar's bust.
Asked if the BJP will take action against Raja, Shah told reporters outside Parliament, "No, we will not".
However, the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP today expelled party worker R Muthuraman, who was arrested yesterday for damaging Periyar's bust.
Raja, however, blamed the staff managing his Facebook account for the controversial post and voiced regret.
In the Facebook post that was later deleted yesterday, Raja had said: "Who is Lenin and what is the connection between Lenin and India? What connection India has with Communists? Today Lenin's statue removed in Tripura, tomorrow it will be the statue of EV Ramasamy in Tamil Nadu".
He said his "Facebook admin" had put up a post comparing the razing down of Lenin's statue in Tripura to that of Periyar.
"Views should be confronted by views only and not by violence. I have no intentions of hurting anybody. Therefore, if anybody felt hurt by that post, I express my heartfelt regret," he said.
However, his apology failed to smooth the ruffled feathers of political parties and pro-Tamil outfits. Opposition DMK and various fringe organisations staged protests in many parts of the state, with Raja's effigies being burnt in Chennai, Cuddalore and Salem among others.
Police detained scores of protesters, including some who tried to lay siege to the state BJP headquarters in Chennai.
DMK working president MK Stalin recalled Ramasamy's contribution in fighting various social evils.
Referring to the widespread protests against Raja's comments, Stalin said, "None even in their dreams will now think of removing statues of Periyar."
"If anyone wants to do so, let them touch the statues and the DMK, which upholds the Dravidian ideals of Periyar, will show who they are," he said in a letter to partymen.
In an apparent fallout of the desecration of Periyar's bust, unidentified people hurled petrol bombs at the BJP office in Coimbatore.
The men, who came in an auto-rickshaw, hurled the bombs at the office in Siddapudur at around 4 am, police said, adding that the bombs fell short of the BJP office building.
A hunt has been launched to apprehend the attackers.