Officials from the Assam government have decided to demolish and replace a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Guwahati as it presented a “distorted image” of the freedom fighter, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday. The statue was created by Ramkinkar Baij and is located inside the Gandhi Mandap garden atop Sarania Hill in Guwahati. It was unveiled in 1970.
A BJP MLA from Guwahati, Siddhartha Bhattacharyya, said the statue’s hands and feet are disproportionate and do not resemble those of Gandhi. “His face is distorted, as also the pair of glasses,” Bhattacharyya told the newspaper after a meeting with officials of the Kamrup Metropolitan district officials in Guwahati on Monday. “That is why we have decided to dismantle it and place a new statue there.”
Experts described the move as unfortunate. “Ramkinkar Baij is one of the most important artists in contemporary Indian art,” said Swapan Datta, the Acting Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan. “I will go as far as to say that there can never be another Ramkinkar.” Datta said Baij’s sculptures of Gautam Buddha and Sujata inside the university, also do not look exactly like the original people. “That’s the point, it is an interpretation, it is art… Art isn’t about looking for similarities,” Datta said.
The district District Deputy Commissioner, who chaired the meeting that decided this move, said he was unaware that this was Baij’s work. Former Union Minister Renuka Devi Borkataki, who attended the meeting as a member of the Gandhi Mandap Trust also said that she did not know about the statue’s sculptor.
The decision sparked outrage in the state. Freedom fighter Krishna Nath Sarma termed the act criminal and anti-national, and said he would draw the President’s attention. “This is an insult not just to the great sculptor, but also to the Mahatma,” the 95-year-old said.