Monday 26 August 2013

What is in a statue

On Friday last, a group of people walked upto the statue of Mark Cubbon which is in the front of the High Court building and garlanded it.
Many in the group were part of the Cubbon Park Walkers’ Association and they were escorted to the statue through the small gate that divides the Cubbon Park from the High Court building.
The group wanted to honor Cubbon on his 238th birth anniversary and it was led by its president, S. Umesh, an advocate. This was the first time since 1947 that a statue of a British official had been garlanded.
Cubbon Park is home to many statues such as those of King Edward, Queen Victoria, Mark Cubbon and they were being honored and garlanded prior to Independence by British officers and the British and European residents of the Bangalore Civil and Military Station or Cantonment.
Though Cubbon had nothing to do with the park, it was named after him as the then Government wanted Indians to remember his contribution. While the group strongly felt Cubbon deserves recognition and remembrance  as one of the architects of Bangalore and Mysore, freedom fighters, Kannada protagonists  and some political outfits like the Kannada Vatal Paksha have taken exception to the garlanding.
The Kannada activists point out that the statue of  Cubbon was supposed to have been removed in the 1960s and even a resolution was passed by the City Corporation. However, the move was never implemented and the statue continued to remain in front of the Cubbon Park though the State Government in 1977 agreed to remove the statue.
The statue is covered by a thick tarpaulin when the High Court organizes Republic Day, Independence Day and other ceremonial functions. It does sound and look strange but the High Court has been keeping the statue covered during ceremonies out of respect to people’s sentiment.
The garlanding drew stringent criticism from Vatal Nagaraj. He promised to launch a movement to remove all British statues from the park and also get it renamed. He forgot that the park had been renamed as Chamarajendra Park in 1927 but the new name never struck and people still called it as Cubbon Park.
Even today, Government organisations, State and Central organisations and  even websites of the Karnataka Government and High Court and a host of other organizations that are located on the premises such as the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association, Century Club, Secretariat Club, Press Club, Raj Bhavan, Vidhana Soudha, Indira Gandhi Music Fountain, Jawahar Lal Nehru Planaterium, Bala Bhavan, Children’s Library, State Central Library continue to call the park as Cubbon Park.
This shows that people are not easily taken in by the new names given to places, roads and buildings.
Residency Road still continues to be called by that name though it has been renamed after Field Marshal Cariappa. Banks, commercial and business establishments, post offices and even people still call Frazer Town by the same name though others prefer to call it by the name of Pulakeshi Nagar.
Similarly, Palace Road continues to be called by the same name though it has been renamed. We still call Kengal Hanumanthaiaya Road as Double Road.
What this shows is that people are reluctant to accept change just for change’s sake. There should be a valid and good reason.  Cubbon is regarded as the architect of Bangalore and one of the ablest administrators. His contribution is so immense that garlanding his statue would not take away anything. True, he was a Britisher and a soldier. But does it take away his everlasting contribution.          
The garlanding has once again stoked up an old controversy of whether the statues from the British Raj should to remain in the park. In fact, statues of  Mark Cubbon, King Edward VII and Queen Victoria, has always been the focus of controversy.
While Vatal and others vow to fight and get the statue removed, others say it is better to let pieces of history let be as they are. History cannot be erased and, therefore, the British presence in India cannot be glossed over. The best way to pay tributes to our freedom fighters is to keep their ideals alive and work for the development of the country.   
Mere symbolism cannot lead to development. Nor can it wash away history. Let people remember history and let us join hands to ensure India always remains a free, fair and democratic country. Let us not go by statues alone but work hard to achieve the goals that Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Nehru, Shastri, Ambedkar and others set for us. That would be a more fitting tribute than tinkering with history or merely paying lip service. 

(The next post will deal with the contribution of Mark Cubbon and his achievements)

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