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Gandhi statue stands tall overcoming all threats

By AJIT PATOWARY
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The Ramkinkar Baij-sculpted statue of Mahatma Gandhi atop the Sarania Hillock in the city had to face two major threats to its existence. Both the threats sprang from the irresponsible official decisions on this art work, rated as one of the unique creations of Baij, one of the most celebrated modern sculptors of the country.

The sculpture provides an artistic representation of the bold stand taken by the Mahatma against the communal forces and his solacing trip to the Noakhali areas in the present-day Bangladesh to stand by the side of those affected by communal violence that started on October 10, 1946 and continued unabated for about a week. Around 5,000 people were killed in the Noakhali incidents. The Mahatma camped in Noakhali for four months and toured the affected areas in a mission to restore peace and amity.

Taking this as the theme, the statue was originally sculpted in concrete and then cast in bronze, and, when the bronze carving was ready, it was painted in greenish black patina colour. It was unveiled on October 2, 1970. It is regarded as one of the 10 highly valued sculptures by Baij.

An official meeting presided over by Dr M Angamuthu, the then Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro), which was held on August 7, 2017, described this statue as a �distorted� image of Gandhi and decided to replace it with a new one.

As soon as the news of this decision was out, the city-based conservation society Heritage Conservation Society of Assam (HeCSA) swung into action and launched a signature campaign to thwart any move to dislodge the statue.

In a petition drafted by the conservation society to take up the issue with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, several leading artists like the late Benu Mishra, Neelpawan Baruah, Noni Borpuzari, Dr Jabeen Rahman Ghosh Dastidar, renowned poet Nilamani Phukan, artist Champak Barbara, senior journalists DN Chakravartty, Shashi Phukan, Munin Bayan and Ramanuj Dutta Choudhury, and HeCSA secretary Jayanta Sarma, among others, put their signatures.

This was followed by a direction from the Chief Minister to stop forthwith the move to replace the statue.

Then, in early October, 2018, another shocking development concerning this statue came to light. The Kamrup (Metro) district administration, without consulting the artist fraternity or any of the scholarly people, painted the statue white.

The HeCSA again launched a campaign to restore its original greenish black patina colour. It made a written appeal to the then Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup (Metro), to take urgent steps for restoration of the original colour of the statue.

Following this, a core committee was formed by the Kamrup district administration on December 17, 2018, to restore the original greenish black patina colour of the statue, with experts like the late Benu Mishra, Prof Janak Jhankar Narzary of Vishwa Bharati, Santiniketan, Noni Borpuzari, Dr Jabeen Rahman Ghosh Dastidar and others. The matter was then referred to the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority on June 17, 2019.

Of late, the HeCSA has been asked by the GMDA to start the work of restoring the original colour of the statue. HeCSA secretary Jayanta Sarma has said that the work to restore the original colour of the statue would be started soon after Gandhi Jayanti.

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Gandhi statue stands tall overcoming all threats

The Ramkinkar Baij-sculpted statue of Mahatma Gandhi atop the Sarania Hillock in the city had to face two major threats to its existence. Both the threats sprang from the irresponsible official decisions on this art work, rated as one of the unique creations of Baij, one of the most celebrated modern sculptors of the country.

The sculpture provides an artistic representation of the bold stand taken by the Mahatma against the communal forces and his solacing trip to the Noakhali areas in the present-day Bangladesh to stand by the side of those affected by communal violence that started on October 10, 1946 and continued unabated for about a week. Around 5,000 people were killed in the Noakhali incidents. The Mahatma camped in Noakhali for four months and toured the affected areas in a mission to restore peace and amity.

Taking this as the theme, the statue was originally sculpted in concrete and then cast in bronze, and, when the bronze carving was ready, it was painted in greenish black patina colour. It was unveiled on October 2, 1970. It is regarded as one of the 10 highly valued sculptures by Baij.

An official meeting presided over by Dr M Angamuthu, the then Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro), which was held on August 7, 2017, described this statue as a �distorted� image of Gandhi and decided to replace it with a new one.

As soon as the news of this decision was out, the city-based conservation society Heritage Conservation Society of Assam (HeCSA) swung into action and launched a signature campaign to thwart any move to dislodge the statue.

In a petition drafted by the conservation society to take up the issue with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, several leading artists like the late Benu Mishra, Neelpawan Baruah, Noni Borpuzari, Dr Jabeen Rahman Ghosh Dastidar, renowned poet Nilamani Phukan, artist Champak Barbara, senior journalists DN Chakravartty, Shashi Phukan, Munin Bayan and Ramanuj Dutta Choudhury, and HeCSA secretary Jayanta Sarma, among others, put their signatures.

This was followed by a direction from the Chief Minister to stop forthwith the move to replace the statue.

Then, in early October, 2018, another shocking development concerning this statue came to light. The Kamrup (Metro) district administration, without consulting the artist fraternity or any of the scholarly people, painted the statue white.

The HeCSA again launched a campaign to restore its original greenish black patina colour. It made a written appeal to the then Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup (Metro), to take urgent steps for restoration of the original colour of the statue.

Following this, a core committee was formed by the Kamrup district administration on December 17, 2018, to restore the original greenish black patina colour of the statue, with experts like the late Benu Mishra, Prof Janak Jhankar Narzary of Vishwa Bharati, Santiniketan, Noni Borpuzari, Dr Jabeen Rahman Ghosh Dastidar and others. The matter was then referred to the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority on June 17, 2019.

Of late, the HeCSA has been asked by the GMDA to start the work of restoring the original colour of the statue. HeCSA secretary Jayanta Sarma has said that the work to restore the original colour of the statue would be started soon after Gandhi Jayanti.

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