Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab
Are the ‘extremists’ responsible for defacing Tagore’s sculpture?
This article is more than 1 year old

Are the ‘extremists’ responsible for defacing Tagore’s sculpture?

Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab

A rumour recently circulated on Facebook and Twitter, claiming that “extremists defaced Rabindranath Tagore’s sculpture” at the University of Dhaka. The verification conducted by DismisLab, however, disproves the claim that ‘extremists’ defaced Rabindranath’s sculpture.

On February 17, a Twitter handle named Voice Of Bangladeshi Hindus tweeted two images—one of Rabindranath’s sculpture and the other of its ruins—with the caption: “Extremists have defaced the sculpture of Rabindranath Tagore.” TSC, Dhaka University; #HinduphobiaInBangladesh.”

The post used the hashtag “Hindu Phobia in Bangladesh.” Several accounts on Twitter (1, 2) and Facebook (1, 2) made the same claim, giving the same hashtag. The same claim has also been shared on a website called Sanatan Prabhat and on Reddit.

A group of students put up the statue of Rabindranath Tagore at the entrance of the book fair on February 14 in response to recent censorship and persecution in Bangladesh. According to a media report, some students of the University of Dhaka’s Faculty of Fine Arts made this sculpture.

Who broke it?

‘Extremists’ have not been blamed for damaging the sculpture by the university authority, the police, or the students who made it. Rather, a student involved in the construction of Rabindranath’s sculpture told a Bangladeshi media outlet that it was destroyed by the Dhaka University administration.

Sculpture artist Shimul Kumbhakar told bdnews24.com, “Proctor sir also lied to us in the morning. He told us he had no idea at all about it and was trying to find out. After hearing him, we speculated that someone from outside might have removed the sculpture for another reason. We had no information about it. That’s why the students went and hung the banner titled “Rabindranath is missing.”

He also told the media, “After a while, we found out that it was the proctor himself who had taken the sculpture down. After some time, I got news that the broken part of the sculpture was found in Suhrawardy Udyan. Then we were convinced that it was our administration’s fault.”

The university authorities acknowledged removing the sculpture

The university administration, on the other hand, admitted to the media that they removed the TSC sculpture, but they made no mention of the defacement.

On February 16, the Bengali edition of The Daily Star had a story with the headline, “DU officials took Rabindranath’s mouth shutted sculpture down.” It wrote, “The university authorities have removed sculpture of Rabindranath Tagore made to protest against the incidents of censorship and oppression from the entrance of book fair in TSC at University of Dhaka ” The sculpture was taken down on Thursday, two days after it was unveiled at the entrance of the book fair next to the Raju Memorial Sculpture on February 14.

The report contains the statement of Dhaka University Proctor Prof. Dr. AKM Golam Rabbani, in which he argued in favour of removing the sculpture.

He told the newspaper, “It is against the tradition to build another sculpture next to a beautiful sculpture in a university.” “We don’t think it’s right to secretly build a sculpture without the university’s permission. “Moreover, insulting a Nobel Prize-winning poet with a distorted sculpture is not acceptable in any way.”

Other news outlets (New Age, Desh Rupantar, and Dhaka Post) have also written about the sculpture being taken down by DU officials.

Later, on February 19, another clear explanation for the removal of this sculpture by the university authorities was found in a report published on BDNews24. There, the proctor of the university, Professor Golam Rabbani, says, “We have removed the sculpture. The authorities decided to do it. We have also given our explanation in this regard.”

BDNews 24 reports that part of Rabindranath Tagore’s sculpture was also found lying on the ruins.

According to the Daily Prothom Alo, “The sculpture was installed last Tuesday afternoon as part of a protest against censorship and all forms of oppression on free thought, creativity, and independent expression in the country.” “The 19-and-a-half-foot tall sculpture was erected by a group of students from the university’s Faculty of Fine Arts.” The authorities removed it, but later the broken parts of the sculpture were brought back and installed in the previous place, according to the Dainik Ajker Patrika.

Besides, there has been evidence of spreading fake news against the Voice of Bangladeshi Hindu Twitter account, which posted false claims before, which have already been verified.