A Monumental Tragedy

What do you get when you have a government wishing to build a 300 feet high statue of a state hero, an editor who expresses the needlessness of such a venture, and a hurt and angry bunch of party workers? You guessed it: violence.

Marathi newspaper editor Kumar Ketkar must still be wondering which sinister act did he commit when he chose to question the need to build a statue of Marathi warrior Shivaji in the Arabian Sea off the Marine Drive – a statue that would be larger than the Statue of Liberty. For twenty minutes, he and his wife bore the brunt of some 70-80 men belonging to the Shiv Sangram, who threw stones at his residence damaging property and even trying to break into his house. The Police finally came to his relief, but the story does not end there.

The Shiv Sangram is led by former NCP MLC Vinayak Methe – who accepted the responsibility for the incident, but if you thought he regretted what happened, think again. He chose to launch a verbal tirade against Ketkar, saying the editor had used “derogatory language against Chhatrapati Shivaji to oppose the move, so our workers attacked his house in protest.” To be honest, if that was a good enough excuse for them to attack Ketkar, I am beginning to doubt whether I am secure in choosing to write this article.

What I do not understand is why our politicians prefer to build statues and temples with more vigor than solving more pressing issues. Barely a few days after the episode, Pune approved plans to build another Shivaji statue at the Katraj Lake. Two years ago, a drunken person defaced the statue of BR Ambedkar. It didn’t take long for enraged Dalits to mete out their displeasure. They killed three people, set fire to two trains and caused such a ruckus that nearly a hundred people were injured in police firing. Everywhere you go, a new statue of prominent political personalities is being built. Mayawati and Kashi Ram join Ambedkar in UP, Subhas Chandra Bose in West Bengal, and Shivaji in Maharashtra. However, how many people who worship these idols have studied about their lives? How many in West Bengal know the locations where Bose helped the Indian National Army build bases in South East Asia? How many of the Shiv Sangram know Shivaji’s birth date? It is February 19, 1627.

I fail to understand what the proposed statue would actually help to accomplish. How many tourists would be attracted to visit Mumbai because of the statue? As per garnering votes, would the ruling party not win more brownie points if they use the same money to help the poor and for such other noble efforts? Hopefully, this recent incident would have brought some more sense to the government and they would decide to rethink their decision. Meanwhile – I better go into hiding, just in case I have hurt someone’s sentiments.

Raveesh Bhalla

[Image Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/redherring1up/163079104/]