City Landmark – Lenin’s Statue, Nehru Park
The tomb of communism.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It was a November day in 1987 – the 70th year of the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the 40th year of the independence of India.
Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was in Delhi to sign economic and cultural accords between the two friendly nations. The day began with the inauguration of the year-long ‘Festival of the Soviet Union’ in which 1,400 Soviet artists, including circus performers and gymasts, were to tour the country.
After attending the opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium where more than 100 dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet staged the Nutcracker Suite, General Secretary Gorbachev and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi headed to Nehru Park in central Delhi to oversee the unveiling of a 2.65 meter bronze statue of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Hundreds of children carrying Indian and Soviet flags looked on at the late founder of the USSR. He stood frozen in a three-piece suit; one arm was tucked into a trouser pocket, and the other held a cap.
A year later, Mr Gorbachev returned to Delhi to preside over the closing ceremony of the aforementioned festival. This was his first visit abroad after the presidency was added to his portfolio. According to news reports of the time, about 100,000 school children and 10,000 teachers were deputed to line the route from the airport to Rashtrapati Bhawan — the President and his wife Raisa drove past them in a cavalcade of black limousines. About 20 tons of roses, marigolds and chrysanthemums were used to decorate the capital. Banners proclaiming India-USSR friendship were installed at various squares and avenues, along with giant portraits of Mrs and Mr Gorbachev.
In 1991, Mr Gorbachev’s USSR disintegrated and disappeared. The same year the metal plaque commemorating the unveiling of Lenin’s statue in Nehru Park, too, disappeared.
In April 2007, a picture of the statue appeared in People’s Democracy, “the weekly organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)”. It showed a dozen people standing around the bronze figure; the caption said, “CPI(M) Delhi state committee organised a meeting on the occasion of Comrade Lenin’s 137th Birth Anniversary.”
In November 2012, The Hindu published a small story titled ‘October Revolution celebrated’:
The Delhi State Council of the Communist Party of India celebrated the Great October Socialist Revolution of Russia on Wednesday by paying floral tributes at the statue of Lenin in Nehru Park at Chanakyapuri here.
Speaking on the occasion, veteran CPI leader A. B. Bardhan stressed the importance of the Russian revolution and Marxism and Leninism to the world and India. He said the present day world and India require the struggle of the communist of the world to intensify so as to save the working class and poor of the country from the attacks of capitalism and imperialism…
One November morning in 2013, The Delhi Walla came across a few middle-aged men doing stretches beside the Soviet leader, who, by now, seemed as much of a Russian fairy tale character as Ivan the Fool and Baba Yaga. A dried white line, possibly a gift of a well-fed bird, ran down the statue’s bald head.
In this city of tombs, this sight made for Lenin’s perfect tomb.
Where Near the Niti Marg Exit, Nehru Park Time Morning to Evening Nearest Metro Station Racecourse
“The main enemy is at home”