Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday accused the Sangh Parivar of trying to rewrite history by forcing the Indian Railways to erase a mural depicting the 1921 wagon tragedy at Tirur railway station. The mural, part of a beautification project, was reportedly finished on Friday, but erased by Monday.

The chief minister criticised the Indian Railways for succumbing to “such demands” from the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella term for Hindutva organisations led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The Indian Railways, however, has refuted claims that it bowed to the demand of Hindutva organisations alone and said that it erased the mural after several people criticised the choice of a “tragic event” for a beautification project. “We wanted to create beauty in the station, not spread fear among passengers,” the Railways public relations officer told The News Minute. “It was a tragic image, and therefore, despite being both connected to Railways and Tirur, it did not meet with our aim of beautification.”

The 1921 Tirur wagon tragedy

In a Facebook post, the chief minister described the tragedy thus: “In 1921, hundreds who were part of the Malabar Rebellion were taken into custody and were sent to the Podanur jail. On being informed that the jail was full, they were sent back to Tirur. The prisoners were crammed into a goods wagon and were deprived of air. This resulted in the death of 67 of them from asphyxiation.”

Most of the prisoners were from the Muslim community.

Vijayan said the RSS had influenced the erasing of the mural because it had no role in that struggle. “The RSS is allergic to the memories of the Indian Independence struggle,” Vijayan wrote. “This is nothing short of being an anti-national move. Attempts to erase the memory of Independence movement must be condemned.”

Bharatiya Janata Party state general secretary AN Radhakrishban denied any role in the decision to remove the mural but said it was a “welcome step”, PTI reported. “As far as I have understood, the Railways have taken a stand against demonstration of communal violence,” he said.

The Indian Union Muslim League’s Tirur MLA C Mammootty also condemned the removal of the mural and described it as a “clear case of injustice towards history”, The New Indian Express reported.