India crowd pulls down Tripura Lenin statue after Communist defeat

Lenin statue video grab
Image caption The statue in Belonia town was removed with the help of an excavator as supporters cheered

Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been accused of pulling down a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in Tripura state.

Monday's incident happened days after the party swept elections in the north-eastern state, dislodging the Communist government after 25 years.

The five-year-old statue in Belonia town was removed with the help of an excavator as supporters cheered.

There have been clashes between BJP and Communist party workers in the state.

The NDTV news channel quoted eyewitnesses as saying the excavator which brought down the statue was hired by BJP workers.

Tapas Dutta, a local functionary of the outgoing Communist Party of India (Marxist), told The Indian Express newspaper that eyewitness had told him "that after the statue fell, its head was dismembered from the body".

"Then the BJP workers played football with Lenin's head."

A local BJP leader Raju Nath denied that the excavator was hired by his party and told the newspaper that the statue fell because of an "overflow of anger".

"For years, there has been resentment against this statue of Lenin. It was built by the municipality and funded by the taxpayers' money. Why should the taxpayer have to finance a statue of Lenin? What does this foreigner Lenin have to do with our people?," Mr Nath said.

The chief of police of South Tripura Ipper Monchak said the driver of the excavator had been arrested and later released on bail.

"The statue remains where it has fallen. It will be removed by the police and given to the municipality for storage," he said.

A BJP-led coalition crushed the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the polls, winning 43 of the 59 seats in a remarkable first victory for the party in the state.

The outgoing party said more than 240 people had been injured in attacks on its party and trade union offices, since the election results were announced on Saturday.

Although the Soviet Union ended in 1991, few statues of Lenin have been toppled in Russia.

But in some former Soviet states, many symbols of the Russian revolutionary leader have been taken down, most notably during protests in Ukraine in 2014.

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