Be alert to Operation ‘Dhakka’: on the toppling of the Lenin statue

There one moment, gone the next — statue of Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, known internationally as Lenin, March 5, 2018, Belonia, Tripura. “Bharat Mata ki jai!” saffron-sporting men yelled as they felled the statue of the Russian communist revolutionary. It did not matter to them that Lenin had hailed that same Bharat, its revolutionary ardour, for struggling to free itself from British imperialist and indigenous yokes. It did not matter to them that Lenin had been the inspiration to generations of Indians, leaders and led, in their strivings for a just Bharat. What mattered to them was that Lenin had inspired the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government in that northeastern State, which had been un-seated after an un-broken 25 years of ‘red rule’.

A second Lenin statue was to be similarly toppled at another site in the State shortly thereafter. A report said the statue’s decapitated head was turned into a ‘football’. Visuals of the statue’s ‘slaying’ and of the ‘slain’ figure lying amidst what looks like garbage sped across the globe. And millions watched them in disbelief. ‘What ever happened to Tripura? Where is Indian democracy headed?’

Operation Dhakka

And the chronology unfolded in thinking, remembering minds of other demolitions, charrings that seem to belong to a family of hate, of violent hate. The Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, December 6, 1992. The Wali Dakhani Mazaar, just outside the office of the Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, March 1, 2002. An estimated 272 minority shrines in Gujarat over six days thereafter. St. Sebastian’s Church, Dilshad Bagh, Delhi, Christmas eve, 2014.

“Ek dhakka zor se (one more shove, and make it strong)” was an inflammatory cry that was heard at the time of the Babri Masjid demolition. The list of demolitions together can be called ‘Operation Dhakka’.

What does one say to this sample scroll?

That the mindset of the people of India is now happy with the bulldozer? That it now endorses the blade that cuts, crushes, decimates the ‘other’? Does it approve the claw that then moves the heap away?

The response

The nationwide response to the vandalisation rejects that despondent hypothesis. So swift was the reaction, all in real time, even before the news condensed into cold print the following day, that the Bharatiya Janata Party functionary who tweeted with the speed of sound to the effect that ‘Lenin today, Periyar tomorrow’ had to retract that with the speed of light. Thank God, one might say, begging Periyar’s atheistic pardon, for Periyar’s giant stature. Even in death, his stature remain stronger than any statue bulldozer.

And the Prime Minister, sensitive to world opinion, and aware of the reaction to the Tripura shame, has asked the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to say that what has happened is not acceptable. He has done what is only right and proper. And quickly enough. He deserves to be complimented. The new Chief Minister, too, deserves appreciation for his expression of disapproval. Those who said things that seemed to explain away the dhakka will be hopefully be sobered by the Prime Minister’s admonition.

But is the admonition enough?

The questions remain: Why do supporters of his party feel that they can do what they have done, in the first place? Why do they feel they can do that and get away with it? Or that – even if the administration was to prosecute them – the dhakka has done its work and so, yay!

The Prime Minister’s chastisement, last year, of cow vigilantism was salutary, though it came not nearly as fast as his response to the Lenin dhakka. But did cow vigilantism stop? Is the cattle trade now free of fear? We know the answer.

Why? Because the culture of dhakka is abroad. And so it will be until India gets another clear message, direct and unmistakable, in continuation of his advisory to the MHA, from the Prime Minister saying he is deeply troubled and hurt by what happened in Tripura, that no one owing allegiance to ‘saffron’ will ever conduct such an ‘Operation Dhakka’ again, not just because a statue of a great world leader was vandalised but because that vandalisation reflects political coarseness, un-democratic belligerence.

Bullies are not democrats. And democracy is not a bully. That adds up to a paradox: the bullying of democracy and the enfranchising of the bully.

Democracy, as organised for us by our Constitution, does not disentitle bullies from participating in election campaigns, electoral contests. Why? Because, to borrow and adapt, begging his pardon, Gandhi’s famous description of God, the bully is “an indefinable mysterious power… which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof…”

Unveiling the electoral process for the electing population, our democracy says to the voter what a voter may or may not do as that essential digit in democracy, namely, the elector. It says to the candidate and campaigner what they may or may not do in the run-up to the polls. It says to election officers what they may or may not do as the polls are on. It says to Presidents and Governors what they should or should not do, how they should and should not act when scrutinising results to see who should be called to form governments.

But democracy does not tell the public to not let the anti-social, the anti-democracy bully take the law into his hands and hold peace to ransom, peaceful change to ransom, the democratic process itself to ransom. Democracy does not tell us that but governance can, administrations should. And that, through the medium of the laws, the dicta of ‘law and order’.

Operation Dhakka has therefore happened right under democracy’s nose and above governments’ heads. It has happened, I said. But that is surely an under-statement and, in fact, a mis-statement. It has been allowed to happen, it has been enabled to happen. ‘No flout without clout.’ Certainly no flout of the scale that Operation Dhakka represents.

But stopping the culture of dhakka cannot be left to the administration’s law and order maintenance mechanism.

Relay and retaliatory dhakkas are likely, with the defacement of a Periyar statue having been already attempted, incredibly, and a Syama Prasad Mukherjee statue in Kolkata being black-inked. This is an incendiary risk which only political leadership can address.

Treating the risk as a ‘law and order matter’ is not the answer, for the dhakka challenge runs deeper. It threatens to erode the very fabric of our democracy.

It is imperative that all democratic forces unite in saying no one should repeat or retaliate in copy-cat shames, the Tripura shame. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement has been frank and fearless. “Karl Marx or Mohamati [The Great] Lenin are not my leaders,” she said.“But they do matter in Russia. Different people are leaders in different countries and different places formed this [the world]… but you [the BJP] do not have the right to raze the statues of Marx or Lenin, just because you came to power.”

Bulldoze bulldozing

Strong words. The communist parties of India and the Trinamool Congress can recall violence for which they hold the other squarely responsible. But surely the time has come for them and all parties that sense a new danger from dhakka-ism to democracy to now arouse India’s faith in democratic choice and thereby bulldoze bulldozing.


1) Yelled

Meaning: Shout in a loud, sharp way.

Example: “You heard me losing my temper and yelling at her”

Synonyms: Cry out, Call out

Antonyms: Whisper, Murmur

2) Hailed

Meaning: Praise (someone or something) enthusiastically.

Example: “He has been hailed as the new James Dean”

Synonyms: Acclaim, Praise

Antonyms: Criticize, Condemn

3) Ardour

Meaning: Great enthusiasm or passion.

Example: “The rebuff did little to dampen his ardour”

Synonyms: Passion, Avidity

4) Imperialist

Meaning: Relating to, supporting, or practising imperialism.

Example: “An imperialist regime”

5) Indigenous

Meaning: Originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native.

Example: “The indigenous peoples of Siberia”

Synonyms: Native, Aboriginal

Antonyms: Expatriate, Migrant

6) Strivings

Meaning: To try very hard to do something or to make something happen, especially for a long time or against difficulties.

7) Toppled

Meaning: Remove (a government or person in authority) from power; overthrow.

Example: “Disagreement had threatened to topple the government”

Synonyms: Overthrow, Oust

8) Slaying

Meaning: Kill (a person or animal) in a violent way.

Example: “St George slew the dragon”

Synonyms: Kill, Murder

9) Garbage

Meaning: Rubbish or waste, especially domestic refuse.

Example: “Garbage littered the estate”

Synonyms: Rubbish, Refuse

10) Chronology

Meaning: The arrangement of events or dates in the order of their occurrence.

Example: “The novel abandons the conventions of normal chronology”

11) Demolitions

Meaning: The action or process of demolishing or being demolished.

Example: “The monument was saved from demolition”

Synonyms: Destruction, Knocking down

Antonyms: Construction, Confirmation

12) Charrings

Meaning: Charring is a chemical process of incomplete combustion of certain solids when subjected to high heat. The resulting residue matter is called char.

13) Shrines

Meaning: A place regarded as holy because of its associations with a divinity or a sacred person or relic, marked by a building or other construction.

Example: “The medieval pilgrim route to the shrine of St James”

Synonyms: Holy place, Temple

14) Shove

Meaning: Push (someone or something) roughly.

Example: “Police started pushing and shoving people down the street”

Synonyms: Push, Thrust

15) Endorses

Meaning: Declare one’s public approval or support of.

Example: “The report was endorsed by the college”

16) Decimates

Meaning: Kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of.

Example: “The inhabitants of the country had been decimated”

17) Heap

Meaning: An untidy collection of objects placed haphazardly on top of each other.

Example: “A disordered heap of a lot of boxes”

Synonyms: Pile, Stack

18) Vandalisation

Meaning: The act of deliberately destroying or damaging public or private property.

Example: “Due to vandalization in the past, a security system has been installed in the house”

19) Despondent

Meaning: In low spirits from loss of hope or courage.

Example: “She grew more and more despondent”

Synonyms: Disheartened, discouraged

Antonyms: Hopeful, Cheerful

20) Swift

Meaning: Happening quickly or promptly.

Example: “A remarkably swift recovery”

Synonyms: Prompt, Rapid

Antonyms: Unhurried, Slow, Leisurely

21) Atheistic

Meaning: Disbelieving or lacking belief in the existence of God.

Example: “The leaders of scientific thought are overwhelmingly atheistic in their beliefs”

22) Pardon

Meaning: The action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offence.

Example: “He obtained pardon for his sins”

Synonyms: Forgiveness, Absolution

23) Sobered

Meaning: Make or become sober after drinking alcohol.

Example: “That coffee sobered him up”

Synonyms: Become sober, Become clear-headed

24) Prosecute

Meaning: Institute or conduct legal proceedings against (a person or organization).

Example: “They were prosecuted for obstructing the highway”

25) Chastisement

Meaning: Chastisement is the act of scolding or punishing someone.

26) Vigilantism

Meaning: Law enforcement undertaken without legal authority by a self-appointed group of people.

Example: “The message here is not to encourage vigilantism”

27) Coarseness

Meaning: The quality of being rough or harsh.

Example: “The coarseness of her hair”

Synonyms: Roughness, Prickliness

Antonyms: Softness, Sophistication

28) Belligerence

Meaning: Aggressive or warlike behaviour.

Example: “Mortimer was eyeing Guy with belligerence”

29) Bullies

Meaning: A person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

Example: “He is a ranting, domineering bully”

Synonyms: Persecutor, Oppressor

30) Disentitle

Meaning: Deprive (someone) of a right.

Example: “She was disentitled to a redundancy payment”

31) Defies

Meaning: Openly resist or refuse to obey.

Example: “A woman who defies convention”

Synonyms: Disobey, Refuse to obey

Antonyms: Obey, Surrender

32) Polls

Meaning: The process of voting in an election.

Example: “The country went to the polls on March 10”

Synonyms: Vote, Ballot

33) Scrutinising

Meaning: Examine or inspect closely and thoroughly.

Example: “Customers were warned to scrutinize the small print”

Synonyms: Examine carefully, Inspect

Antonyms: Glance at

34) Ransom

Meaning: A sum of money demanded or paid for the release of a captive.

Example: “The kidnappers demanded a ransom”

Synonyms: Pay-off, Payment, Price

35) Flout

Meaning: Openly disregard (a rule, law, or convention).

Example: “The advertising code is being flouted”

Synonyms: Defy, Refuse to obey

Antonyms: Observe

36) Defacement

Meaning: To damage and spoil the appearance of something by writing or drawing on it.

Example: “He was fined for defacing library books”

37) Incendiary

Meaning: (Of a device or attack) designed to cause fires.

Example: “Incendiary bombs”

Synonyms: Combustible, Flammable

38) Retaliate

Meaning: Make an attack in return for a similar attack.

Example: “The blow stung and she retaliated immediately”

Synonyms: Fight back, Strike back

Antonyms: Turn the other cheek

39) Raze

Meaning: Completely destroy (a building, town, or other settlement).

Example: “Villages were razed to the ground”

Synonyms: Destroy, Demolish

40) Squarely

Meaning: Directly, without deviating to one side.

Example: “Ashley looked at him squarely”

Wish to learn more , then you should definitely read the previous editions of THE HINDU EDITORIAL and extend your preparations.


Aspirants can also check the previous month THE HINDU EDITORIAL and can improve the vocabulary list & can ace the exams. Learning the language is easy and this will make the process simple.