Haryana in statue controversy (Haryana Newsletter)
By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, Feb 2 : Haryana's politics has mostly revolved around its towering leaders. But the state is now witnessing an unlikely row over the statues of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's father Ranbir Singh in his hometown Rohtak.
Rohtak already had three statues of Ranbir Singh and a fourth was to be unveiled Friday on Ranbir Singh's death anniversary. However, after the Punjab and Haryana High Court Wednesday issued notice to the Haryana government, the district administration removed the just installed statue from the Canal Rest House roundabout Thursday night, only hours before its formal unveiling.
The notice came on a Rohtak resident's petition against the installation of the fourth statue and for the removal of the other three.
Even though there was no order for removing the fourth statue, the district authorities justified the move, saying the Supreme Court had banned the installation of statutes at public places, roundabouts and roads.
Rohtak has a fair share of things in the name of Ranbir Singh, a former minister in undivided Punjab, a freedom fighter and a member of the Constituent Assembly.
In Rohtak, be it the OPD block of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS), the Industrial Model Township (IMT), research institute at the Maharishi Dayanand University (MDU), the memorial park or streets, Ranbir Singh's name is all pervasive.
"While his (Ranbir Singh's) contribution in the freedom struggle and Haryana politics cannot be undermined, why is it that everything started coming in the public domain in a big way only after his son became chief minister of Haryana (in 2005)," a local resident of Rohtak questioned.
But then, Ranbir Singh is not the first to be honoured in this way by the government headed by his son.
Former chief minister and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Om Prakash Chautala, who is now in jail after his conviction in the JBT teachers' recruitment scam, too had obliged his father, Haryana's political stalwart and former deputy prime minister Devi Lal.
When Chautala's government was in power (1999-2005), a number of Devi Lal parks sprung up across Haryana - all paid for from public funds. Most of them continue to be still there.
There is a Chaudhary Devi Lal University in the family's Sirsa home district, a thermal plant named after him at Panipat and stadiums bearing his name at Panchkula and Gurgaon.
Across the state, there are also streets named after Devi Lal.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)