The BBC is reporting that the Indian state of Maharashtra plans to construct a statue on an artificial island off the coast of Bombay (HT: Zondervan>To the Point).

“The statue will be of the Maratha warrior king Shivaji, considered a hero in Maharashtra for his defiance of Mughal and British forces.”

The officials apparently have in mind a rival for the American Statue of Liberty: “Vishal Dhage, a state government official, said the statue would be about the same height as the Statue of Liberty – which, with plinth included, stands at 305ft (92.69m).”

But where the Statue of Liberty was intended in part as a sign of international friendship and, later on, as a symbol of welcome to immigrants. In 1903, Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” was posted on a bronze plaque standing inside the Statue of Liberty. The poem reads in part:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

That’s a far cry from some of the symbolism behind a modern Indian statue of Shivaji: “King Shivaji is an icon adopted by the militant right-wing Maharashtra group, Shiv Sena, which says more should be done to promote the rights of ‘local’ people in the state rather than ‘outsiders’.”

If the US hasn’t always been as welcoming to distressed and oppressed immigrants, at least since 1903 it has had an ideal to aspire to.


  • http://gashwingomes.blogspot.com Gashwin

    Oh sweet Lord have mercy! Don’t those Shiv Sena goons have anything better to do? What the heck do they know about liberty anyway? As a died-in-the-wool Bombayite (always one, even though I haven’t lived there in over a decade) this is just appalling!

    It seems to be yet another attempt to re-energize a dwindling political base, appealing to nativist sentiments.

    I don’t think it will work in the new India. At least I hope it doesn’t.

    [And it was the Shiv Sena that shoved the name change from Bombay to the vernacular Mumbai on everyone. Mumbai is fine in the vernacular. I refuse to call it that in English. Especially when Westerners make “Mumbai” rhyme with “Dubai” :)]