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HomeGeopolitical CompassSouth & Southeast AsiaWhen Toppling Monuments Serves Authoritarian Ends

When Toppling Monuments Serves Authoritarian Ends

Author: Supriya Gandhi

Affiliation: Yale University

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place: July 13, 2020/USA
Type of Literature: Article

Word Count: 1555 


Keywords: Hindutva, India, Iconoclasm, Europe


By referring to the incidents of iconoclasm in India and Europe, the author draws inferences as to how mobs resort to destruction in a bid to avenge perceived historical wrongs. The author compares the case of Babri mosque destruction in India with the destruction of Edward Colston’s statue in Britain. These anarchic tendencies to avenge past wrongdoings send disturbing signals. The author further discusses how the Modi-led government in India is fueling such acts of anarchy to shape a previously imagined future by the party ideologues. While activists in Europe and North America are mobilizing support to do away with the remnants of racism, slavery and White supremacy, the Modi-led government in India is evolving the idea of an exclusive India by using violence, suppressing critics and marginalizing minorities. Moreover, Modi’s reign since 2014 has been about infusing Hindu nationalist agenda into policy and law, sometimes by constructing the tallest statue or otherwise through the levelling of monuments and structures in order to facilitate Hindu religious gatherings. Also among the structures is the upcoming ministerial mansion and a new parliamentary building, showcasing an imperial vision of the government which cuts through the election terms. The Modi-led government is following the footsteps of the Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Savarkar by demonizing Muslims and isolating them from India’s past, present and future. With ample history available to exploit and turn into an imaginary past, India’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party seeks to communalize the past and build a rigid and divisive idea of India for the future. 

By: Usman Khan Pathan, CIGA Research Associate



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