Local administration has removed century-old Queen Victoria statues quietly from Paliwal Park in the heart of Agra.
AGRA: The Bajrang Dal in Agra is keen to erase every trace of colonial rule from the city. Days after their protest on the “central location” of three of the century-old Queen Victoria statues, the local administration quietly removed it from Paliwal Park, in the heart of the city, to the backyard of the Agra Municipal Corporation’s John’s Public Library.
Bajrang Dal leaders had sent out a memorandum on November 7 demanding that the statues, a relic of our colonial past, be removed within 72 hours. On November 10, the statues were removed to a more innocuous part of the city.
Bajrang Dal state co-convener Ajju Chauhan said, “Paliwal Park is the heart of Agra. The Bajrang Dal is absolutely against having any sign of colonialism here. We are against such signs anywhere in the country. I am surprised that a huge amount of money is wasted in the maintenance of these statues and the library, which only serve as reminders of slavery.”
Chauhan added that now the Bajrang Dal is set to organize a huge protest to ensure that the name of John’s Public Library is changed too. “This library should ideally be named after Ram Vilas Sharma, a renowned Hindi author who refused several prestigious awards because what he sought was the enrichment of the Hindi language, not awards,” Chauhan said.
The three statues, each between 10 and 12 feet tall, was carved in a mixture of 10 metals, including gold. Out in the open for so long, the statues have now lost their shine. In one of the statues, the 19th century British queen is seen holding a sword, symbolising her role as supreme commander of British forces; in the second, she holds a sceptre, a sign of her political power. In the third, she has a Bible in her hand to demonstrate her spiritual side.
“The DM initially said that he had nothing to do with Paliwal Park, but clarified later that he would get the statues shifted,” Chauhan said.
District magistrate Pankaj Kumar, however, said he had not ordered the shifting of the statues and had no role in the affairs of the Paliwal Park, maintained by the Agra Municipal Corporation. He also refused to comment on the proposal to re-name the John’s Public Library.
While Paliwal Park is maintained by Agra Municipal Corporation, the sculptures are the property of the district administration.
The John’s Public Library was built through donations from wealthy residents of the city. It is named after an English industrialist and diamond merchant who contributed for the construction of the building in 1922. For long, the library building served as the city parliament. In 2011, the dilapidated library building was restored and re-opened.
Surendra Sharma, member of Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, said he was sorry that the Bajrang Dal had such little appreciation or understanding of history. “If the Bajrang Dal has issues with all signs of the British Raj, it must call for the banning of train tracks and water lines, too, for these were also put in place by the colonial government.” Municipal commissioner Indra Vikram Singh was travelling, and could not be contacted.