Confrontations between communists and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have broken out in India after supporters of the pro-Hindu party toppled a statue of communist hero Lenin in leftist stronghold Tripura. Communist and Hindu groups have clashed in several places in recent days as leftist parties organized marches to protest against BJP supporters pulling down the statue on March 5, a day after their party won a state election. On March 8, students believed to be sympathizers of left-wing parties beat up student members of a Hindu group protesting the defacement of a bust of Hindu leader Syama Prasad Mookerjee at Kolkata's Jadavpur University. Local media reported marches and attacks on statues across India after the Lenin statue was pulled down in Belonia town of Tripura using a bulldozer amid cheers and Hindu slogans from BJP supporters. In Tripura's state election, the BJP won 43 of 59 seats in the legislative house, ending the communists' uninterrupted rule for 25 years. Several BJP leaders including Foreign Affairs Minister Hansraj Ahir backed the removal of Lenin's statue. He told reporters in New Delhi that the people of India no longer needed any inspiration from foreigners as it had no paucity of icons to motivate generations. BJP leaders' open welcome of the statue's removal angered communists who have been opposing pro-Hindu groups in former communist bastions such as Kerala and West Bengal states. Sitaram Yechury
, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, told reporters in New Delhi on March 6 that the BJP should be aware that such moves would be opposed vehemently. "The red flags [symbol of communists] will rise in protest and we will take on this fight," he said. Aditya Mukherjee, a professor of modern history at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, believes the statue's removal shows a trend emerging in India that opposes anything foreign. "This will render the country a hub of narrow-minded nationalism, divesting it of all its diversity, which is worrisome," he said. Saba Naqvi, a prominent writer, said communism is part of India's political history as communists were first elected to power in 1957. "Let us not forget the Communist Party polled some 40 percent of votes, and razing Lenin's statue is disrespecting the people who voted for the communists," he said. Dhruv Rathe, a social media activist, said the statue's destruction marks the beginning of the end of India's tolerant political culture. "This is a nation where you will find followers of Gandhi and Godse, his assassin, as well as admirers of Hitler and Stalin, living together. However, this perception of India is fast changing," he wrote in his blog.
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India within a year slipped 10 places to 42nd on the annual Global Democracy Index
published in February, causing civil society and political groups to express concern about where the country is headed. Pro-Hindu groups are also accused of supporting violence and intolerance against non-conformist views in every sphere of life including art, food, dress, movies and literature. Religious minority groups are often attacked, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which provides information about risks and opportunities to nations, industry and management. Rights activists say violence has increased since the BJP came to power in New Delhi following a landslide 2014 general election victory
as Hindu groups took the poll success as a mandate for them to step up action for their goal of making India a Hindu-only nation. The BJP, which now controls governments in 21 of 29 states as well as New Delhi, has been accused of unfairly supporting Hindu groups.