Students have reattached the remnants of Rabindranath Tagore’s sculpture and put it back by the Raju Sculpture on Dhaka University campus, two days after it had gone ‘missing’.
This time however, they have hung two banners on either side of the sculpture. One of those reads, ‘Ban Digital Security Act and stop all sorts of censorship’ while the other one quotes a line from one of Rabindranath’s poems.
The sculpture was restored yesterday, Saturday afternoon. In the state the sculpture has been restored now is basically ruined remnants of the original statue.
The statue when it was installed first, had a volume of Rabindranath’s ‘Gitanjali’, bloodied and impaled with a nail, in the poet's hand. The mouth of the statue was taped as if he was being barred from speaking.
A group of students from Dhaka University’s fine arts faculty had built the sculpture as a protest against restrictions to free thinking and freedom of expression as well as all sorts of repression in the country.
The statue went ‘missing’ Tuesday afternoon, the day after it was installed beside the anti-terrorism Raju Memorial Sculpture. It was found later that the university administration itself removed the statue.
Broken bits of that sculpture were noticed lying around at the Suhrawardy Udyan on Thursday night. Students later recovered the main bamboo frame and the bust of the statue from the Suhrawardy Udyan.
That structure was restored back to its original spot on Saturday afternoon. But the head of the statue has been tilted to the left this time. Some of the general students are explaining that it might be a protest against its ‘removal’.
Shimul Kumbhakar, Dhaka University unit president for a fraction of Student Union and a student at the sculpture department of DU fine arts faculty, who had been involved with installing the statue told Prothom Alo Saturday night, “No protest can be suppressed by exerting force.”
“That’s the message we wanted to convey through restoring the sculpture of Rabindranath Tagore. The actual reason behind its head being tilted on one side is that the severed part couldn’t be reattached perfectly,” he added.
When asked if the university administration had obstructed the restoration of the statue, Shimul replied, “No, the university administration hasn’t given any statement about it yet.”
Students have claimed that anyone who goes to protest on an issue is labeled as political opposition now. There was a risk of attacks and lawsuits if the protest, done symbolically through the sculpture, was to be organized in the conventional way like processions and rallies.
Meanwhile, proctor of Dhaka University Golam Rabbani told Prothom Alo that they have come to know about the incident.
In reply to the question if they would remove the sculpture again the proctor said, “We have advised the students not to commit anything illegal or prohibited. Still we are advising and warning them to remove it on their own instead of using art and culture on a different purpose.”
Proctor Golam Rabbani also claimed that various parties have expressed their concerns over the possibilities of an unstable situation to be created or something to disturb the educational environment to occur at the university, centring the sculpture.
When this statue of Rabindranath was installed first, there wasn’t any protest writing there. He seemed to have expressing a lot, only by standing upright.
The sculpture had been installed in protest of obstruction and rigidity to freedom of expression for people of all level including authors, artists and journalists in the country.
The incident of the sculpture going ‘missing’ proves that the culture of enforced disappearance still continues in the country, said the students involved with sculpture’s installation.