India should bid goodbye to every symbol of racism and oppression

NEW DELHIEdited By: Palki SharmaUpdated: Jun 11, 2020, 07:06 AM IST
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The toppling of a statue is not just a revolt against history. It is also-- the making of history and history -- is exactly -- what is being written right now.

The world is rocked by protests against racism and discrimination and in the line of fire are symbols of racism.

Black Lives Matter protesters are turning their attention to memorials around the UK to demolish that celebrate the country’s imperialist past.

The toppling of a statue is not just a revolt against history. It is also-- the making of history and history -- is exactly -- what is being written right now. The world is rising against racism and attacking everything that stands for racism.

In 2003, the destruction of the Firdos Square statue of Saddam Hussein was an event in the invasion of Iraq that marked the symbolic end of the Battle of Baghdad and the end of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.

On June 4, 1989, in Beijing,  the statue of the goddess of democracy was destroyed by soldiers clearing the protesters from Tiananmen square. 

Structures built on the foundations of hate and slavery they are being taken down one after another.

In London, the statue of a slave trader was taken down. His name was Robert Milligan. He was a merchant who owned 526 slaves in Jamaica. Why was his statue standing tall outside a London museum in the first place? Because he helped in founding some of the key institutions of imperial Britain. 

For the money that he paid, Milligan's links to slavery and his racist history — were whitewashed. Just like it was — in the case of Winston Churchill. Edward Colston — another slave trader.
Both these statues were defaced in England.

This is a movement against racism. That is exposing skeletons of the past. Countries across the world are facing a difficult question today. 

One of the most controversial statues under threat is the monument to British colonialist Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford University, where thousands will gather later today for a rally demanding its removal.

India is still living with the symbols of this dark era, 72 years after independence. The victoria memorial still celebrates the queen of England.

It is also a reminder of how Bengal and all of India suffered under her rule. Almost all the streets of Langford town in the city of Bengaluru are named after imperial leaders. Fort St George in Chennai is a reminder of the British raj.

These symbols of imperial pomp were imposed on India. Just like the British rule. Statues of rulers, generals and British civil servants were erected across India. 

Many of them faced the wrath of angry Indians. In 1896, a statue of queen victoria was daubed in tar.

In 1908 another victoria statue was vandalised in Nagpur. In the 1930s, people demanded that a memorial to the black hole tragedy be removed. After independence people asked-- why should the symbols of the raj stay?

The Bombay municipal corporation adopted a resolution in 1947.

All busts and statues of imperial figures were to be replaced by those of Indians. In recent years many imperial structures have either been removed or placed in museums.

Some have also been sent abroad. But many remains as do colonial names. Today, Britons have spoken out against their queen. A statue of victoria has been attacked in the UK. And I am not justifying or promoting vandalism.

This is the right time for India to bid goodbye to every symbol of racism and oppression.