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Justice Done To Statues

Issue June 16, 2020

Justice Done To Statues

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar


The waves of bringing down the statues of racists, slave traders, and colonizers prevailing in America and elsewhere in Europe had reminded me how the then Soviet leaders tore down the statues of Stalin and then of course after the breakdown of the Soviet Union how the East European countries removed the statues of Lenin, and then how the protestors watched how the statues of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi came down amid the protestors watching them. This indicated that no matter how long the time had passed the culprits could not escape from the punishment; even the statues could not do away with the injustice their originals had done to the people. This also was the indication one day the statues of Mao Zedong would need to face the same fate. Probably, in the places vacated by the statues of Mao would be replaced with the statues of Deng Xiaoping. In Nepal too, the statues of Prithvi Narayan Shah and his descendents would probably have the same destiny, as of the statues of other irrational and cruel and tyrannical rulers elsewhere in the world.


It was in September 1961 when fifteen of Nepalese students including me were flown to Moscow from Kathmandu via New Delhi, and Tashkent in Uzbekistan, and then lodged them in one of the hostels of the Moscow Automobile Roads Institution in Sokol, as all of us were for studying civil engineering in the Soviet Union under the scholarships so generously the then Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev offered to Nepal. Because of the temperature difference between Kathmandu and Moscow even in September I felt very cold initially but my body quickly adopted the climate, and I felt normal even in Moscow in a few days.


There was a small local park among the so many hostel buildings in Sokol. I needed to cross the park to reach the student cafeteria for having a lunch. I used to have breakfast and dinner at my hostel room. There was a small kiosk on the ground floor of our hostel where I could buy a few things for dinner and have a dinner quietly not going out of the hostel. So, I used to cross the park only once a day for going to lunch at the cafeteria. The park had two large statues of Lenin and Stalin facing each other.


After a few months in Moscow, I suddenly woke up with the morning news that the body of Stalin was removed from the Kremlin Mausoleum, and was buried along the Kremlin wall. I was surprised why the body of the so beloved leader of the Soviet Union was removed from the public view, and then it was buried. I even regretted that I postponed visiting the mausoleum, and I lost the opportunity of seeing Stalin. So, the first thing in that weekend I did was to visit the mausoleum to see the remaining body of Vladimir Lenin fearing the body of Lenin might follow the Stalin’s body. Lifeless Lenin was sleeping quietly. All the visitors including me were in a constant move quietly watched not making noise even breathing low so that we would not cause any disturbance to the soul of venerable Lenin.


The next unexpected thing I noticed was the statue of Stalin facing Lenin went missing from the park. That did not shock my mind, as did the removal of the body of Stalin from the mausoleum.  Later on, I came to know that they eliminated the statues of Stalin from every park at nights to avoid the people’s provocation. By that time I already knew something about why the statues of Stalin became the target. The Russian newspapers had begun widely reporting the misdeeds of Stalin. Obviously, millions of communists who dared to speak out against Stalin found their way to heaven without most of their colleagues knowing them going so early.


Then, in 1990 the Soviet Union collapsed. The fifteen union members were freed. Other Eastern European communist States too went out of the Soviet Union umbrella. Most of them quickly removed the statues of Lenin from their countries. Only they knew how brutal and despotic communist rulers had been thanks to Lenin. So, for them even the word “communist” had been so hateful. So, the statues of Lenin had gone out of the Eastern European countries. However, Russians had kept the statues of Lenin elsewhere in Russia, and the body at the Kremlin mausoleum so far.


Then, the Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger planes, and two of them managed to hit the twin towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2001 creating havoc in the United States of America. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been working from Afghanistan where the Taliban leaders had been running the State administration. They had aimed at destroying everything non-Muslim artifacts. They blew up two large stone Buddha statues in Khandahar ignoring the worldwide opposition. The Taliban even refused to let devotees collect the broken pieces of the Buddha statues. Recently, UNICEF had been working on restoring the Buddha statues in Khandahar, according to the media reports.


Obviously, the first thing, the US administration did was to destroy the Taliban regime. The Taliban who disregarded the world opinions and destroyed everything non-Muslim had to go back to their hiding places. Not even a year had passed since destroying the twin towers in New York, the Taliban were on the run from the US military. The infamous Taliban went again in hiding in the remote villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They had paid the heavy price for demolishing the twin towers in New York, and later on Osama bin Laden himself paid by his life for sending the terrorists to hit the twin towers.


After sending the Taliban to underworld, the next thing the US administration did was to turn on Iraq. The then head of the US administration George W. Bush charged President of Republic of Iraq: Saddam Hussein with having the weapon of mass destruction (WMP). So, the US administration sent its army to Iraq to finish off Saddam Hussein and destroy the so-called WMP. After a month or so, Saddam went into hiding leaving his palace and statues vulnerable to the predators. The US army men hooked up the head of the statue of Saddam Hussein and pulled it down amid a tremendous cheer from the watching crowd in the capital city Baghdad. Later on, Saddam found himself at the gallows, and bravely faced the hangman removing the black cover put on his face before hanging.


The next turn was of the statues of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was killed by a crowd in October 2011 while he was on the run from the western coalition forces that assisted the uprisings in Libya. For almost forty years Gaddafi ran the unopposed despotic administration in Libya often assisting the terrorists to shut down a plane or hit major opponents. He squandered the oil rich revenue for his unique irrational life style. His statues also came down elsewhere in Libya after his death and the collapse of his regime.


Today, the anti-racism protestors (Black Lives Matter) ignited by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the while policeman in Minneapolis, USA, elsewhere in the world have been demanding the tearing down of the statues of the former slave traders, soldiers and army generals who fought for slavery, and colonizers.


In Bristol, England on June 7, 2020, the “Black Lives Matter” protestors pulled down the statue of British slave trader Edward Colston built in 1895 from the pedestal, and they rolled it down to the harbor and dumped it there. However, the statue was retrieved and would be displayed in a museum. Similarly, the statue of King Leopold II was removed in Belgium. Protestors wanted the statue to go from the public display, as the king had brutally killed many people in Congo in Africa when he colonized it. The Native American activists brought down the statue of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus from the pedestal in Minnesota, USA on June 10, 2020, as it stood as the reminder of the defeat of the indigenous people. A number of statues were tore down in America and Europe. Most of them would find their way to museums for safekeeping and display.


Statues of Mao Zedong might have the same fate as of those European and American statues in the twenty first century, as the new generation of Chinese communists has not forgotten the excessive hard physical labor their predecessors had to suffer for speaking up against Mao falling in the trap Mao had indirectly set in 1960s. Probably, the statues of Deng Xiaoping would take the places the Mao’s statues had vacated, as the current prosperity of China had been the contribution of Deng Xiaoping: one of the greatest political leaders in the twentieth century.


That brings us to the statues in Nepal.


The Nepalese communist leaders and ministers including the prime minister had been busy with opening up the statues of the feudal lords the communists labeled as their foes but for the Nepalese communists they had been the venerable figures. For example, Prime Minister Oli opened up the statue of Prithvi Narayan Shah at the Chandragiri resort, and his deputy Ishowar Pokharel opened up the statue of Kalu Pandey in the Kirtipur area causing the great insult to the descendents of those Kirtipureans who lost their noses and ears to the barbarian soldiers Prithvi Shah had sent to do the jobs. Then the Oli’s minister for tourism and civil aviation Yogesh Bhattarai another communist minister opened up the statue of Bhimsen Thapa in Gorkha. Some folks did not visit the Chandragiri resort because of the statue of Prithvi Narayan Shah.


Certainly, time would soon come in Nepal, too when the people would demand to get rid of the statues of Prithvi Shah and other feudal lords from the public eyes. However, the main statue of Prithvi standing at the western gate to the Singhadurbar in Kathmandu had been serving to navigate the vehicular traffic.


The statue of Tribhuvan at the Shahidgate in Kathmandu sitting above the four martyrs had been the great upsetting to the people who fought for democracy, and who own it. Tribhuvan had signed off the death sentence to those four martyrs whose statues had been sitting in the Shahidgate. The statue of Tribhuvan needed to go to a museum for safekeeping. The statue had been doing great injustice to the four martyrs that had sacrificed their beautiful lives for the fundamental human rights and democracy in the mid twentieth century.


The statue of Mahendra: the killer of democracy standing at the Sanskritpathasala had been the eyesore. Time has come to take away the statue and place it somewhere in a museum. In 1960, Mahendra killed democracy that had been won at the cost of high human lives and property in 1951. He introduced the despotic political system that managed to prevail for 30 years in Nepal despite its traits of corruption and despotism. Consequently, Nepal retarded politically, economically and socially for the 30 years.


The new generation of Nepalis grown up in the twenty-first century would take care of those unwanted statues of the feudal lords the communist leaders wanted to propagate going against the people’s inspiration for flourishing the republican setup. Using teargas and water cannons against the peaceful protestors, the current Oli administration had been swimming against the political current trying to take back the fundamental rights to the freedom of expression and to peacefully taking the issues of the national interest to the streets.


In the republican society and democratic system of governance, the State administration protects the protestors on the streets and listens to them rather than chasing them away using water cannons and teargas and police batons. All these weapons of harassing the protestors go against the democratic principles and norms. So, the Oli administration had been putting the democracy and the republic at risk going against the republican constitution. Nepalis need to safeguard the constitution and protect the democracy and the republic from any predators.


June 16, 2020

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