Wearing one’s nationalism on one’s sleeve

The tiger may be the national animal, but it is worth noting that it is endangered. So what does a tiger print shawl say?

  • Published 22.05.19, 3:57 PM
  • Updated 22.05.19, 3:57 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Prime minister Narendra Modi arrives in Kedarnath for a two-day pilgrimage to Himalayan shrines, Saturday, May 18, 2019. PTI photo

Sir — It has become the norm to wear one’s nationalism on one’s sleeve. It should thus hardly come as a surprise that the prime minister was seen sporting a tiger-print shawl on his ‘pilgrimage’ to Kedarnath. The tiger is, after all, our national animal. Surely nobody can dare argue that small details such as the endangered status of the tiger — which is why it was declared the national animal — or the implications of the head of a country that pioneered tiger conservation with Project Tiger sporting animal print be allowed to stand in the way of a public display of nationalistic fervour?

Sampurna Guha,

Calcutta

Unbreakable

Sir — On May 14, Calcutta witnessed an episode of cultural violence when saffron-clad miscreants smashed to pieces the statue of Pandit Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar — a beacon of the Bengal Renaissance — at Vidyasagar College, following the road show of the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Amit Shah (“An eclipse”, May 16). Extremist ideologies are averse to the idea of reform, but the hooligans seem completely alien to the age-old social structure and the subsequent reforms in this state. They have little idea about the culture of Bengal, let alone the legacy of Vidyasagar. Their actions were merely a display of muscle power on our soil to draw the attention of their political overlords.

What was more surprising was that within hours of the incident, dubious statements from a few eyewitnesses cropped up on social media — all claiming to be ex-students of Vidyasagar College and blaming the vandalism on the Trinamul Congress. The fact that these accounts were similarly worded, with similar punctuation marks and mistakes as well, makes one suspect that these claims are contrived and politically motivated.

The BJP’s vision of capturing the state in the near future would have been welcome had it been channelled through a healthy democratic process. But patronizing lumpenism to further the party’s own ambition is bound to backfire.

Indranil Banerjee,

Calcutta

Sir — The political vandalism in Vidyasagar College will remain a dark chapter in the institution’s history. Ishwarchandra’s contribution towards social progress, especially the emancipation of women, is irrefutable. The decision of Sanskrit College to dub the polymath ‘Vidyasagar’ befits his vast knowledge and quest for learning. It is also shameful that after the incident, the vandals boasted about their act by chanting dialogues from a popular Hindi movie.

The hooliganism in the name of election campaigning reflects the low regard that the vandals have for our national icons and the example their patrons will set for our future generations.

Oindrila Thakur,

Narendrapur

Sir — The vandalism of the statue of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar is deplorable. It is difficult to believe that the political discourse in Bengal, which has been the birthplace of Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Raja Ram Mohan Roy, among so many other luminaries, has fallen to such levels. What did the hooligans gain through their act? The desecration of a statue of a national icon, a social reformer and one of the chief architects of the Bengal Renaissance is a blot on India’s culture. Is this not ‘anti-national’? One hopes that these hatemongers realize that history will never be kind to the likes of them.

Sourav Chunder,

Calcutta

Sir — The destruction of the statue of Vidyasagar seems to be a part of the political agenda. It is an attempt to destroy the symbol of our culture. Such acts have previously been seen in other states like Tripura and Tamil Nadu. The aim of the culprits is to break the unity of the people. One is afraid that this will soon be followed by ethnic violence in Bengal. This should be strongly opposed by all.

Smarajit Basu,

Calcutta

Sir — This is the second time in my life that I have witnessed the desecration of a statue of the great philanthropist and key figure of Bengal Renaissance, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. The first incident occurred in the early 1970s when some hoodlums vandalized his statue and tried to justify it by citing some kind of political ideology. Now, after almost 50 years, history has repeated itself.

The earlier incident was carried out in the dead of the night, since the police force was a vigilant watchdog in those days. The second incident happened early in the evening right before the eyes of the inactive police. The authorities should initiate a thorough investigation of the crime.

Pulak Bhattacharya,

Calcutta

Sir — Allegations and counter-allegations regarding the vandalism in Vidyasagar College reflect the ethical degradation of the Indian political system. It has reached an all-time low.

Arun Kumar Baksi,

North 24 Parganas