Leopold II of Belgium is revered across the country with a moniker 'Builder King'. The name is associated with the national heritage of the country. However an incident of June 9, at the trade city of Antwerp was alarming at every level. The Leopold statue was toppled in Antwerp as part of the 'Black Lives Matter' protests sweeping across western countries following the custodial death of George Floyd in US.
News of toppled statues of national icons of respective places in dozens of cities as part of the anti-racist protests across American and European countries are continuing to flow. On June 11, statue of Christopher Columbus was beheaded in Miami of US while the statue in Richmond was hurled into the lake by the protesters.
The depth of the political lessons imparted by toppling of the statues can be grasped when remembering that, hitherto Christopher Columbus was introduced as 'Discoverer of America' in school textbooks for generations.
The statue of Edward Colston, a renowned British slave trader, in Bristol City was toppled on June 7. On June 9, the city authorities themselves removed the statue of Robert Milligan outside the London Museum. The protesters of London did not forget to write 'racist' below the plaque of Winston Churchill's statue. The George Floyd protest is gaining momentum across continents questioning the existence of all racist icons with a bearing on their colonial past and racism.
It has been months since 'The Guardian' has started a new serial "Modern Day Slavery in focus". The serial expounded the level of racism and xenophobia still inrained in the social and political structure of Europe, which is frequently hailed as citadel of modern democracy and diversity. Western political leaders always considered themselves superior and imposed terrorist label on whoever stood up against their projects. They destroyed through media and military propaganda every country and community, who opposed them,. Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine are among the surviving victims of that vicious campaign.
It will be too early to call the ongoing protests in US and Europe as a total gamechanger. US President Donald Trump has called the protesters, "domestic terrorists". He might suppress the protest by deploying any tactics at hand. However the ongoing protests are capable of shaping new socio-cultural paradigms and catalyse the change in equations of the western political, social transformation.
We witnessed how thes protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act – which aimed at reducing Indian Muslims to second class citizens - propelled and advanced the political expression of Indian Muslims. The protests framed a new Muslim who can speak up himself and form his own slogans. Indian metropolises echoed "Muslim lives matter" slogans.
The protesters were able to instantly dismiss the traditional Left theory that such slogans may diminish the prospects of anti-CAA protests. Hopefully, Black Lives Matter protests might fuel novel political expressions in western countries. The toppling and beheading of national icons cannot be termed trivial. The affirmative slogans of the protesters that the country was not discovered by Columbus, but that it was founded upon the blood and sweat of their forefathers carry huge striking power.