Off With His Head

It appears they have filed for copyright protection of ‘statue destruction as a method of protest’ and asked destroyers to pay them royalty. “We gave this to the world,” the filing says, and draws attention to the two Buddha statues of sixth century vintage, in Bamiyan in Afghanistan, then the highest standing statues of Buddha in the world, that they reduced to rubble in 2001, against entreaties from around the world. “And you said we were off our rocker then.” So, does the Taliban get the last laugh?

Could they have taken their cue from developments in the land of the free where pulling down statues is rapidly gaining favour as the means of righting wrongs? Or is it the other way round? Difficult to say. Easier to say that traditional forms of protest have been found to be ineffective.

“Merely saying sorry is not enough,” as Bill Maher, the American TV host, so eloquently said in a recent talk. “Statues have to be pulled down,” as he equally eloquently did not say.

“Sorry” does not quite have the same impact, as India realised when it asked Theresa May, then Prime Minister (PM) of UK, to apologise in 2019 for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919. A year later, who remembers the apology, or expression of regret as it was called? For that matter, who remembers May? It would have been a lot simpler to build a statue of May, who was not even a gleam in her parents’ eyes in 1919, and then pull it down. The good thing with this form of protest is, it can still be done. And again. And then once more.

Full marks to the UK for having retained its basic political identity during the hundred year period so that they could be held liable. Makes one wonder what would have happened if, say, an apology was expected from Yugoslavia? Would we ask Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Croatia, or Macedonia, or Montenegro, or Serbia, or Slovenia, to do the honours?

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo may not have realised the significance of this declaration, his own, but the modern human certainly does.

As demonstrated by the expression of regret by the then PM of UK, descendants can now be held accountable for crimes perpetrated by a person. Not merely the immediately following generation, but coming at any point of time in the future. Not merely direct descendants, but anyone either remotely connected in any way or not remotely connected in any way. In short, anyone can be held responsible for anything.

Talk about beauty, apart from lying in the beholder’s eye, being in simplicity. This law, presently in the early stages of conceptualisation, would be hard to better for its simplicity.

As can be forebears. Not merely the immediately preceding generation but having existed at any point of time in the past. As pulling down of statues demonstrates.

In these charged times, Christopher Columbus has emerged as an unlikely favourite. Indigenous people of America are pulling down his statues as they blame him for discovering America which led to their displacement and marginalisation. Minority groups are pulling down his statues for discovering America that led to centuries of colonisation and segregation. And, believe it or not, Indian officials are preparing to erect statues of Columbus so that they can be pulled down. Why? For setting out to find India, but discovering America instead. “How dare he? Because of him losing his way, India lost the opportunity of becoming America. He has much to answer for. We all know what happened after that. Babur showed up in a few years with his hordes from Central Asia and the rest, which would have been history regardless, is history.” Descendants of Columbus are trying to come to an agreement on whose statue to erect for destruction. “Why was India not where he went? He had to discover America instead, where he is now a reviled figure. India needs to answer for that.” 

There is urgency and palpable excitement everywhere. The Orissa government has commissioned a statue of Emperor Ashok for waging the bloody Kalinga war in the fourth century BC, so that it can be taken down. Statues of Kauravs, from the epic Mahabharat, are sprouting up around the country like weeds during the monsoon, to be pulled down for their criminal acts against the noble Pandavs. The PM designate in the newly formed government in Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has vowed to create statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman, and all major characters in the epic Ramayan. You guessed it…so that they can be pulled down, for showing Lanka and Lankans in poor light.

In a far-sighted move, and recognising the problem being faced by people in having to erect statues that need to be pulled down, the Indian government has decreed that every individual sculpt a bust of themselves and deposit it at the newly constituted Bust Bank (not to be confused with any Nationalised Bank, though both might mean the same thing) so that many years hence, when it is realised that the twenty first century human indulged in despicable practices like binge-watching Netflix, endlessly swiping mobile screens with one finger, running behind a bouncing round object on a football pitch, or even trying to meet with other people face to face, and the need arises to pull down their statues, they are readily available. The PM is expected to bless the initiative by giving it a name which, after a few days, he will explain the real meaning of.

Even as the present day rulers erect statues of invaders who repeatedly, well, invaded (is there a better suited word?) Indian territory for several centuries starting about 800 AD, to pull down in protest for being the cause of the misery faced by its people in the twenty first century that they are unable to solve, the common man in India, has, finally, started to ask for identification of the self-serving rulers who failed in their primary duty of protecting their people and real estate from invaders, and capitulated, repeatedly, for several centuries starting about 800 AD. To erect their statues and then pull them down.

On account of his less than kosher behaviour, as viewed in today’s context, Maher had the temerity to suggest rehab and sensitivity training for God, his God, to the point of saying “God is cancelled.” Should we open up other Gods for a twenty first century performance evaluation? Or, let sleeping Gods lie?

24 thoughts on “Off With His Head

  1. Pulling down statues for whatever reason is a feeble-minded attempt to remove the ugly aspects of history that as we all know cannot be removed. I have observed a similar trend here in Canada. Too sad!

    • It is a sad state of affairs. Another tendency that seems to be on the rise is to whip up sentiment by raising a historical, really deep historical, like thousand year old at times, wrong, and trying to hold some current government/ person responsible and ask for an apology. History cannot be undone.

      • Our groups have been insidious enough to invade education. Parents are somewhat appalled at what is being taught under the guise of education (now that students are being homeschooled). Time will tell…

      • That is a dangerous instrument, with the power to influence impressionable minds. Indian education systems face the prospect of insidious invasion by policy makers to suit ideology. Combining Hydrogen and Oxygen in a certain proportion can result in water, or hydrogen peroxide, or anything else Big Brother wants it to be.

  2. Looks like the statue manufacturers will have a great surge in prosperity. 😉
    On a more serious note, obviously history cannot be undone. The miscreant statues can be taken down and put in a museum with signs stating: Don’t let this happen again. Although it certainly appears that humanity does not learn from their mistakes.

    • Ha ha! How is that for a positive spin?
      I assume a status is put up in a public place after assessing its suitability. Of course, perspectives changes and in the course of history the value of a person’s contribution can change. Like putting up a statue, removing it or bringing it down can also be a considered process, and not a violent one.

  3. A scintillating humour piece that romps all over the globe and millennia. You have taken a swipe at history as well as yet to unfold future, and captured the dicey business of existing in a civilisation, prehistoric, antediluvian, postmodern, whatever. You never know when you are going to be burnt on a stake for the supposed acts of commission and omission by your ancestors in the previous millennium.

  4. It never occurred to me that India has been slighted by Columbus because of his lousy navigation skill. Another slight is why did he call America America, and not India when that was the original destination? You have raised some very deep and penetrating questions about history, and perhaps have uncovered a need to rewrite the narrative.

  5. I don’t think the Taliban can patent statue destruction, as tearing down statues is as much a part of history as putting them up. 30 years ago, people were tearing down the statues of Lenin and Marx, a few. decades before – the statues of kings, tsars, and aristocrats, before it was statues of kings and aristocrats not popular with current kings and aristocrats, or idols of gods not popular with current believers (and that’s the historical benchmark that Taliban reached in 2001).

  6. I imagine we could debate this subject for years, however there will always be differences of opinion on what is right. I think for once, I will only add that this is a great post Ankur and I loved reading the comments too.

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