Burning effigies is usually the proof that you cannot touch the real person. It is done by the groups who need to express their collective anger.
It has happened during Bofors scandal when ABVP burnt the effigies of Amitabh Bachchan. Amitabh was hurt and his family was upset. The worse moment in his life was when his father Harvanshrai Bachchan asked him whether he was involved in the scam.
The effigy burners didn’t need the proof of his involvement. Allegations were enough for them.
On the other hand, the Congress activists have burnt the effigies of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Amethi and in Kolkatta. For similar reasons.
It isn’t confined to India.
In USA, Kathy Griffin a female stand up comedian did it to President Donald Trump. The sight of Kathy holding the decapitated effigy that was burnt disturbed Trump’s 11-year-old son but a bit of debate showed that the conservatives had given a similar treatment to Barrack Obama!
Americans have a long history of citizens committing violence against president effigies to voice political dissent. Americans have a tradition of burning the effigies of their own Presidents. James Madison, John Tyler, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush have faced it.Uttar Pradesh RSS backed body burnt the effigy of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru after Congress criticised Narendra Modi recently. Atal Behari Vajpayee faced the same fate and that too at the hands of RSS’ student wing ABVP which wasn’t satisfied with his handling of Pakistan sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. The list is long. One thing is clear that burning effigies is a symbolic protest. What is clearer is that you burn the effigies of leaders who are already in power, beyond your reach. Burning effigy creates a momentary ‘sense of victory’ among the groups who do it. And the anger against the ‘demon’ gets diluted. The same Amitabh Bachchan enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, the mass adulation. There even is an Amitabh Bachchan temple in Kolkatta where they worship him. Ditto for everyone else who has seen the photographs and reports of his own effigies being burnt. This brings me to the practice of burning of the effigy of Ravana. As the traditional story is, Ravana kidnapped Sita but never forced himself on her. He allowed her a separate place to live and didn’t even touch her.
Lord Rama waged a war against him, killed him and got his wife back. There doesn’t seem any justification to the custom of burning the effigy of Ravana, year after year, in the entire Hindu community. We have no reason to nurture the venom against Ravana centuries after the episode (whether real or fiction, history or mythology) where he had not done anything despicable. Why do we celebrate Dassera? Could it be that Ram didn’t win the war? And Ravana just let Sita free? And Ram never could kill Ravana? The entire episode of killing Ravan was added – like a lot of episodes in our mythology – to glorify ‘our side’? And seeing that ‘we’ couldn’t touch him, we started the custom of burning his effigy?by