Much has been said and written about the repressive British colonial past and the impact that it had on the collective Indian psyche. But DNA has discovered that at least eight statues of British Raj officials, including Queen Victoria, are lying in an abject state of neglect. The statues that once occupied crucial junctions of South Mumbai are lying exposed under the sun, covered in pigeon droppings, on the premises of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum.
The museum, ironically named after King Albert and Queen Victoria, is the oldest museum in the city dating back to 1857. The statues are of Lord Hardinge, Edwin Montague, Queen Victoria, Sir Richard Temple Baronet, Lord Marquis of Wellesley, Lord Marquis of Cornwallis and Lord Sandhurst and Dr Thomas Blaney.
BMC officials maintained that the museum, including its artefacts and the statues’ upkeep, is currently the responsibility of Intach, an agency that has been entrusted with management of the museum.
“However, their contract is going to end soon. We have done a structural audit of the entire museum. We will restore these statues as well,” said a BMC official from the heritage department.
Tasneem Mehta, managing trustee of the museum said some of the statues were vandalised during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement in the mid-60s. It was then that the statues were removed from their locations and brought to the museum.
“We are restoring them but they get dirty again. They were in an even worse condition before. We shouldn’t do a over restoration of the past. The colonial buildings and fountains in the city are in a bigger need for restoration. We might consider restoring these statues as well,” she said.
However, colonial historians are appalled at the condition of the statues. “Their problems are understandable. But the least they can do is to cover them. The bird feces coupled with polluted weather can damage the statues irreparably. There could be enclosure build to arrest the regular erosion and corrosion of the statues, said Dr. Lopamudra Maitra- Bajpai, anthropologist and author.