June 11, 2020

Will toppling statues force Britain to come to terms with its racism in the past and the present?

Francesco Bonfanti

The Butcher of Allahabad, 2020

My entry is directly inspired by the toppling and sinking of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol by Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters. This act of iconoclasm got me thinking about the true nature of the men we venerate on plinths around the country and after coming across an online interactive map – “Topple the Racists” – compiled by the Stop Trump Coalition in support of BLM, I was shocked to see that one of the statues targeted was one that stands in Wellington Square in my hometown, Ayr. The statue in question is of General James George Scott Neil, described as a “brave resolute soldier” who “fell gloriously” during the Indian Rebellion on 1857. However, in India he is notoriously remembered as “The Butcher of Allahabad”, responsible for atrocities we would now consider to be war crimes. The intention of this piece of writing is to question whether it is still appropriate to have these statues standing without any mention of the racist conduct and attitudes the man had and to open up a debate on how we address these facts given the cultural moment we are currently living through.