Dec. 14 — The Father of the Nation remains neglected at Chandraloke on the outskirts of Kalimpong. His statue with a broken pair of glasses and without his walking stick bears testimony to this.
On the premises of the Junior Basic Training Institute (JBBT) stands a neglected statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The statue has witnessed various upheavals in society. The statue depicting the famous 241-mile walk from Dandi to Sabarmati — the Salt march of the 1930s which shook the British empire in India — seems to have lost its lustre: thanks to the GNLF agitation of the 1980s.
The philosopher of non-violence then faced the rage of violence. The statue alongside the administrative building – once the residence of Prince Peter of Denmark and Greece – of the institute was among the many damaged establishments during the agitation.
It was on his centennial birth anniversary – 2 October 1969 – that the statue was unveiled by the then ABGL MLA and state minister in charge for Scheduled Castes and Tribal Welfare department, Mr Deo Prakash Rai. “Besides burning the building anti-socials even snatched his stick, broke his glasses and desecrated his face”, quipped former principal of the institute, Mr TB Takhuri.
The 7-feet tall statue was a creation of Mr Sushil Kaur, who was also the art instructor of the institute. Incidentally, he was the one to sculpt the bust of Nepalese literary giant Bhanu Bhakta Acharya, now installed at Thana Dara.
“Since our basic institute dealt with the philosophies of Gandhiji, we decided to put up this statue. Our art teacher Mr Kaur did it all for free. We just had to buy the raw materials”, Mr Takhuri recalled with a smile. It was during the time of Mr Takhuri that the statue was installed. The 74-year-old also recollected, how, plans were on in the early nineties to reinstall the statue in the town area – but that was only a plan.
“I have seen such a beautiful statue of Gandhi, tired and sweating during the march. The statue truly was one of its kind”, Mr BR Chettri who took the charge of the institute from 1990-2002 said.
“I have been seeing this statue since childhood. But there is nothing we can do about it. Even the institute has not been able to do anything about it, so how can we”, 15-year-old Avinash Thakur said helplessly.
Neither the DGHC nor the administration seems to be bothered about the disrespect shown to the Father of the Nation.