Protests against the vandalising of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue in Kolkata on Tuesday evening, allegedly by BJP-ABVP activists, have reached Bengaluru. Members of left-leaning organisations held a gathering in Bengaluru’s Town Hall on Wednesday. The protest was organised by the All India Democratic Students’ Organisation (AIDSO) and All India Mahila Samskritik Sanghatan (AIMSS), affiliates of the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI).
Among the prominent protesters were 97-year-old veteran freedom fighter HS Doreswamy, who condemned Tuesday’s incident. "As per media reports, BJP workers barged into Vidyasagar College during the clash and vandalised the bust of great humanist and renowned Renaissance thinker Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar located inside the college premises,” he said.
“The pioneer of Indian Renaissance Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, as well as Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule, were the strong advocates of women's education. Throughout his life, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar fought for women's liberation. The father of Indian nationalism, Vivekananda proclaimed that 'Ishwar Chandra is the hero not just of Bengal but of entire India'. Great freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose held Vidyasagar in high regard. Bengal is the land that gave birth to great men like Vivekananda, Netaji, Khudiram and Vidyasagar. But petty political interests of the present day are dismantling the cultural heritage of this great land. As Indians, we are bestowed with the responsibility of condemning this act and uphold the politics practised by Bhagat Singh and Netaji in place of this rotten politics that we are witnessing today,” he added.
MN Sriram, Bengaluru District Secretary of SUCI who also addressed the gathering termed this vandalism an attack on democracy.
“Throughout the country, progressives and people with ideas contrary to Hindutva are under attack. By vandalising the statues of Periyar, Ambedkar and now Vidyasagar, an atmosphere of hatred is being created. These are deterrent to communal harmony, democratic values, and people’s unity. The attack on his bust is an attack on the very concept of democracy,” he said.
The AIDSO has called for similar protests across the country on Thursday. “AIDSO calls for all India protest day on May 16 to protest against this heinous act of Sangh Parivar and urges upon the democratic-minded people of the country in general and students, in particular, to make success the programme to uphold the anti-facist tradition of our country,” the students body said in a statement.
Sithara Mohan, an AIDSO member based in Bengaluru, said similar protests will take place on Thursday in Mysuru and other places in the state.
Charge and countercharge
The vandalism took place in north Kolkata’s Vidyasagar College, founded by Ishwar Chandra himself, during a clash between students opposing the BJP and BJP workers, as Amit Shah was passing through the area as part of his roadshow.
The ruling TMC has blamed the BJP of vandalising the statue and submitted video proof of the incident to the Election Commission, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has blamed “hooliganism” of TMC workers for the incident.
Who was Vidyasagar?
A polymath, Ishwar Chandra was born in 1820 and is a prominent face of the Bengal renaissance. His ‘Borno Porichoy’ (introduction of Alphabets) is the go-to book for those learning to read and write Bengali for close to two centuries now.
He was a pioneer in introducing education for women and also banning the inhuman practice of Sati. He was awarded the title of ‘Vidyasagar’ (ocean of learning) for his contribution in philosophy, Sanskrit and the field of education. He also introduced the concept of remarriage for women and the abolition of child marriages.