PUCL Bulletin, Jan, 2001

Manu's Statue

One does not know whether statues have decorative value. One is not sure whether statues installed of men who mattered in their contemporary setting had one quality of inspiring posterity. One is not even certain that they sculpted the statue from some visual representation of the person the statue is said to represent. One such statue of a living person from the dateless past is awaiting to be unveiled in the precincts of the High Court of Rajasthan. It is the statue of Manu, who authored the Dharma Sashtra. There is no visual representation of this sage anywhere. The sculptor who had this project on hand can not claim that the image he carved out or moulded into existence has any resemblance to the living Manu.

Some statues provoke anger, protest and violent reaction leading to the uprooting the statue itself as was done to Neelam Sanjeeva Reddi's statue in Vijayawada in the sixties of the last century. The statue of Lord Cornwallis had be removed because on the pedestal on which it stood was embossed Tippu Sultan offering his children to the British. It offended the Muslim sentiment and the government of the day removed the statue of the Museum. Later when General Nelli's statue was installed in one of the thoroughfares in Madras City Mr. S. Satyamurthy, that able parliamentarian of the Congress raised the question of removal of the statue of General Neill, that "monster in human form" that "disfigures one of the finest thoroughfares in the City of Madras" he reminded the British Government, of the Brutality which he unleashed on Kanpur by ordering certain guilty villages to be burnt and the inhabitants to be slaughtered, all the heads of the insurgents to be hanged and the brutality directed by General Neill, he described as Crimes against Humanity. Of course, by present standards of Brutality, we are witnesses, to Neil would pale into insignificance. Treasury bench would not support Neil. They were in fact ashamed. This was in 1927. The statue was removed to the Museum later during Raja's Ministry.

Satyamurthy declared that it is impossible for people to look at the statue without feeling that it ought to be removed. The evil that men do or propagate lives after them and hence the anger against the statue. Manu's Statue in the Rajasthan High Court, bring back to memory of Manu's iniquitous ordering of Hindu Society, which kept a majority of the population at sub human levels. An institution like the court, informed by Ambedkar and the Constitution of which he was the principal architect, set up for bringing about social and economic justice is not the right place for installing Manu. The sociality under privileged is now alive to the fact that the root cause for centuries of social degradation was this great saint's work! It has provoked resentment and the smouldering resentment may turn into protests and people may ask for its removal because its existence there is an affront to human dignity. The statue was installed not on account of any popular demand. A few people got together and appropriated public space. They installed it so that people may hate him and his work. So that hatred may generate a movement for a social and cultural revolution, uproot the man and his work and fling him into the limbo of oblivion.

K. G. KANNABIRAN 25 Nov.2000

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