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Extravaganza in Stone and Bronze

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We find throughout the course of history, various cities, parks, monuments, and of course, statues of people (or named for them) who are well alive and active. For political, social or scientific personalities in the last stage of their lives, this can be an honourable way to show respect and commemorate their lives’ work, but what about a person who goes about erecting huge memorials and statues, which are often of herself? That can simply be termed as the megalomania of a demagogue.
Precisely this megalomania in brass and sandstone spans Uttar Pradesh, masquerading in the form of Dalit (Depressed classes) memorials. Built by Mayawati, who is paraded as the ‘Queen of Dalits’, which she is arguably not, and as the messiah who would work for their upliftment, these memorials can find no place in Indian history, except as a terrible waste of the exchequer’s funds.

Located in the Hindi heartland, Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state, with a per capita income of Rs 23,132 as compared to India’s Rs 44,345. 1000 to 2000 crore rupees have been spent by the Uttar Pradesh Government in erecting these monuments and statues, and an upwards of 80 crore rupees will be spent every year, in their upkeep.

Dissenting voices against these actions are often suppressed by claimants, that this was the desire of Kanshi Ram, the founder of Mayawati’s political party, and the money for this expenditure was from the budget of ministries not related to education or healthcare, where possibly, the money could have been better spent. If we start to abide by the wishes of dead sectarian political leaders by transforming the landscape of a state and misusing power, India would be a chaotic place indeed, considering that there are hundreds of regional parties like that of Mayawati which periodically come into power. And since the memorials utilize the funds allocated to others, we need a serious consideration of the budget, its ramifications and subsequent reforms that are so essentially needed, as illustrated by these justifications.

What these huge monuments that dot Uttar Pradesh’s landscape will do, is provide a constant reminder of the ‘leaders’, who ‘shaped’ the state’s past, present and will do so in future, and hence will subliminally affect the public mind.
The shapes of colossal elephants, the symbol of Mayawati’s party (Bahujan Samaj Party) look down upon the people sedately in Lucknow, Noida and the rest of the state, while secretly trumpeting the mark the Mayawati has made on the state. The raised per capita income and the growth rate of the state finds a secondary place, in comparison to these gleaming bronze statues and gigantic sandstone figures, which have attracted ire throughout the country. It is a mark of her true ascent of power but it may mean a hazy future for her PM-dreams, as a display of her indelicate attitude and the popular opinion about her immoderation. It’s a victory for now, but a pyrrhic one.

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About Pooja Wanpal

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Pooja –

    Your article is intriguing – I’d really like to hear more about the political goings-on in the world’s largest democracy that is India.

    But I would also like to offer some constructive criticism. You have to bear in mind that most of your audience on Blogcritics is American or living somewhere in the current or former British Commonwealth. Most Americans, sadly, have little real knowledge of what goes on outside our borders. Those on BC are better than most, but we still are still often not conversant with the finer points of politics in other nations.

    So I recommend that when you write on politics outside of America, take care to spoon-feed it to us and give us reference points we can understand. For instance, give us better reference points as to the buying power of a rupee.

    That said, I’d like to ask a couple questions:

    1 – Concerning ‘Dalit’, are these what was once called the ‘untouchables’? Or is the ‘untouchable’ caste a subset of the Dalit?

    2 – Is English your first language? If not, I’m impressed! My wife once told me a joke: “A person who speaks three languages is trilingual. A person who speaks two languages is bilingual. A person who speaks only one language…is American.” Ever since then, I’ve striven to learn her language (Tagalog).

    And I look forward to more articles, that I may learn about the subcontinent from a source other than the tidbits I hear and see from America’s mainstream media.

  • deepak

    pooja-
    well said !!
    here sitting at lucknow, we all think in the same way.
    glenn-
    not so astonished for your frank confession on american way of thinking ,follow zack on the epochtimes quoting fareed zakaria.

  • Pooja

    Glenn:
    I sometimes get carried away by my strong feelings about the subject, but I’ll keep this in mind and will try to be as extensive about the issue I am writing about.

    1. Indian caste system is no doubt one of the most complex social structures. Caste can be considered in two ways. First is the ‘varna’ and second is the ‘jati’.
    ‘Varna’ has the basis of occupations and divides the society into four classes – Brahmins, the upper class who had the privilege of knowledge and generally earned their livelihood by exercising their minds.

    The second warna is ‘kshatriya’ who were warriors. The third is ‘vaishya’, generally bussinessmen and such. The last, and the most downtrodden is ‘kshudra’, literally meaning ‘insignificant’.Though a part of the ‘kshudra varna’, below them exist the ‘achoot’, the untouchables. For centuries, they have been persecuted by the upper and the middle classes, by condemning them to tasks below human dignity.

    ‘Dalit’ (which means downtrodden) vaguely refers to the ‘kshudras’.
    In every varna, there are hundreds of castes and sub-castes.Think of it as a pyramid-like hierarchy, where the top-most are the Brahmins, who exert dominance over the entire society and the base is the ‘kshudras’, forever condemned by the society.
    Originally,when the ‘vedic dharma’ was in influence, the caste system was not rigid – the son of a Brahmin could become a vaishya, or a kshudra, if he had no inclination towards religious duties, and vice versa. However, down the centuries the caste distinctions became rigid and soon, the son of a kshudra, could only be a kshudra.
    Hence ‘untouchables’ is a subset of Dalits, but they have no cohesion between them, as the dalits too look down on the untouchables.

    However, in recent times, the picture of the Indian caste system is changing. Though castism is still rampant, and inter-caste marriages are few, untouchability and such has been abolished by the Government. Further, reservation for these castes in education and employment has given an impetus for their development.

    2. Thank you! English can hardly be called my first language, but most of curriculum is in English. In India, most people know more than one language – call it an effect of living in a country that has more than 12 languages and hundreds of dialects.

    Deepak:

    Thank you, Deepak. It’s a good thing to know that people from Lucknow feel the same way. In India, such mindless things need to be criticized heavily, because apathy will certainly lead to repetition.

  • Pooja

    A small correction in the above post:

    ‘Kshudra’ is not correct, it should be ‘Shudra’.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Pooja –

    Thank you very much for the education. You’re right – I can’t think of a similarly-complicated social structure. Of course in every country one sees the different classes, but it’s the rigidity that was enforced for so long that gets one’s attention.