Bengaluru: While the desecration of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue in a Kolkata college has become a burning issue in the West Bengal elections, there is another controversy brewing over statues 1,800 kilometres away in Bengaluru.
Bangalore University has turned into a battleground for statues of various kinds — from deities to reformers and political leaders — leading to tension within its campus.
Last week, the university saw clashes over the placement of the statues of Saraswati and Buddha. To appease the clashing groups, the idols were placed side by side. But that has only opened a Pandora’s box as more demands for statues are now pouring in.
Now, a farmers’ association called the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha has demanded a statue of Karnataka’s farmer leader M.D. Nanjundaswamy, and sought the intervention of university vice-chancellor Dr K.R. Venugopal.
University officials have said on the condition of anonymity that no decision has been made yet on the demands, and that the matter is set to be placed before the university syndicate.
“Along with the Saraswati and Buddha statues, we request the Bangalore University to install the statue of Prof. M.D. Nanjundaswamy. He has made immense contribution to the state of Karnataka and has fought for farmers’ issues in the state. By installing his statue, students would be inspired by him,” said the memorandum submitted by the association, accessed by ThePrint.
“We also believe that by installing the statue of the farmer leader, students will develop interest in studying agriculture.”
Girish Gowda, president of the association, told ThePrint: “All we are demanding is that next to the statues of Buddha and Saraswati, the statue of Nanjundaswamy should also be placed. We are all proud of Buddha and respect his teachings, but those who come to study in the university should also know about farmers and learn to respect them too.
Gowda added that students need to understand how Nanjundaswamy “fought for our rights and understand his principles”.
“We also told the university authorities that if they object to the statue of the farmer leader, then the statue of Buddha should also be removed. We have warned them not to get into caste and religious politics, or else we will protest. We have given them eight days to give us a response,” he said.
Demand for 5 other statues
The Bengaluru Vishwa Vidyalayada Alpasankyta Hindulida Mattu Samanya Vargada Naukarara Vedike, a minorities and other backward classes group, had earlier made a demand to install the statues of five persons — poet-philosophers Kanakadasa, Basaveshwara and Shishunala Sharif, Bengaluru city founder Kempe Gowda and father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi — in the Jnana Bharathi campus.
It submitted a memorandum to CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, requesting him to ask university officials of the university to comply with their demands.
On 6 May, major protests had erupted within the university campus after a group installed an idol of Buddha in place of Saraswati, which had been removed in order to place a new one.
This caused major tensions among certain factions of students, and the police had to be called in to restore peace and order.
M.S. Thimmappa, former vice-chancellor of Bangalore University, believes this controversy and these demands are totally unnecessary.
“Saraswati embodies education and unity. She is a symbol of learning, culture, arts spirituality and oneness. By bringing in statues of human beings or ‘Deva-Manava’ who may have contributed to society, it is giving a different orientation or religious connotations, which is not right. It is nothing but dirty politics, and should not be encouraged in the campus at any cost,” Thimmappa said.
Professor Radhakrishna, a well-known educationist and spokesperson of the Karnataka Congress, added: “The problem is that statues of Basavanna, Kanakadasa, Buddha or Kempe Gowda will end up turning them into caste icons, rather than being an inspiration as icons of humanity — devoid of caste, religion or nationality. This is what we should refrain from encouraging.”
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