The run-up to the Lok Sabha election saw a furore over a bunch of miscreants vandalising the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar on a Kolkata college campus. Meanwhile, what has gone mostly unnoticed by the national media is a controversy over the installation of a statue in the State-run Bangalore University campus.
It all began in early May after the Postgraduate and PhD Students’ Association, aided by some of the faculty members, decided to install a statue of the Buddha on the campus. What made this move particularly controversial was the fact that they wanted it installed in the place where there was a Saraswati idol. The Buddha statue was allegedly brought in when the old Saraswati statue, which was damaged by accident, was removed to be replaced with a new one. They argued that the Buddha deserves a place on the campus as a “secular symbol”. Students from Scheduled Caste, Schedule Tribe and Other Backward Classes communities said that this was the only way they could show dissent against the university officials they alleged were propagating one religious ideology on the campus. They claimed that the Vice Chancellor of the university was taking keen interest in this and was even personally bearing the cost of installing the new Saraswati statue.
After some tense moments, authorities approached the police who cordoned off the place and deployed personnel to keep watch. The university also formed a sub-committee to examine where the Buddha statue should find a place on the campus. Given the sensitivity of the issue and its potential to blow up, the university authorities eventually arrived at a compromise and said that both statues would find a place next to each other.
However, this was not the end of the story. Several groups started demanding that statues of several other icons, including Mahatma Gandhi, Kanaka Dasa, Basaveshwara, Shishunala Sharif, Kempe Gowda and M.D. Nanjundaswamy, also be given a place on the campus. The authorities decided to deliberate upon the matter in the syndicate, the university’s highest decision-making body.
Now, in a new twist, Karnataka’s Higher Education Minister G.T. Deve Gowda has decided to say no to any new statue installation across campuses in the State, while adding that old statues will remain. This means that the statue of Saraswati will stay on the Bangalore University campus while the Buddha’s statue will not find a place.
This episode has yet again raised the larger issue of idols and pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses routinely finding a place in several ‘secular’ government or government-aided institutions. While their presence is assumed to be ‘normal’, the statue controversy in Bangalore University has exposed the fault lines underlying this assumption.
Source : The Hindu