Monday, 14 May 2007

Simultaneous all-India public protest against the arrest of an art student and suspension of the dean of M S University

Do please pass this information around to friends in the cities mentioned in the first section. Not sure of the details of other protests nation-wide. Will add here if more comes in.

Bloggers, do note that someone seems to be documenting all this on a blog. Do link. And, y'know, it would be really nice if y'all could post about this too. If you do use this information, please credit these sources:

This information via phone calls, emails and SMSes from Manjula Padmanabhan (who also has a chronology of events down here), Ranjit Hoskote, Jerry Pinto, Dionne Bunsha and Denzil Smith.

Update: Amit Varma just mailed to say that the whole issue is also being covered on Art Concerns

By now, you would have read, heard or seen the news of the arrest of a student, Chandra Mohan, and the suspension of the dean of Maharaja Sayajirao University's Fine Arts faculty in Baroda, Prof. Shivaji Panikker. (For those who haven't, please catch up through the press links below.)

Participate in the simultaneous all-India public protest
Date and time for all:
14th May, 2007, 6p.m.

New Delhi - Rabindra Bhavan
Mumbai - Jehangir Gallery
Vishakapatnam - Faculty of Fine Arts, Andhra University
Cochin - Kashi Art Café
Hyderabad - Fine Arts, S N School, University of Hyderabad
Bangalore - M G Road, opposite Gandhi statue
Santiniketan - Kala Bhavan
Guwahati - Press Club

Kolkata: Academy of Fine Arts (4p.m.?)
Chennai: Lalit Kala Academy, Greames Road, 4p.m. and
Hues Gallery, Eldams Road, 6p.m.

Those attending are requested to wear black and/or white.

For updates on protests, background information and news links, please see fineartsfacultymsu

Below these links, please read:
Hindu Sacred Art Offends Self-appointed Custodians of Hindu Culture, By Ranjit Hoskote, and an open letter from Gulammohammed Sheikh.

News links:
Times of India
The Statesman
The Hindu
Zee News
Sahara Samay
Indian Express
Hindustan Times
Hindustan Times

Hindu Sacred Art Offends Self-appointed Custodians of Hindu Culture
by Ranjit Hoskote

In a grimly ironic turn of events following the 9 May arrest, without a proper warrant, of Chandramohan, a final-year fine arts student at the M S University, Baroda, the self-appointed custodians of Hindu culture have now demanded the closure of an exhibition showing the vital role of the erotic in Hindu sacred art.

Earlier today, 11 May, students of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the M S University put up an exhibition of reproductions of images drawn from across 2500 years of Indian art. In a silent protest against the brutality with which their fellow student has been treated for exhibiting works that BJP and VHP activists claim are offensive and obscene, the students put up pictures of the Gudimallam Shiva, perhaps the earliest known Shiva image, which combines the lingam with an anthropomorphic form; a Kushan mukha-linga or masked lingam; Lajja-gouris from Ellora and Orissa, resplendent in their fecund nakedness; erotic statuary from Modhera, Konark and Khajuraho; as well as Raga-mala paintings from Rajasthan. All these images, among the finest produced through the centuries in the subcontinent, celebrate the sensuous and the passionate dimensions of existence – which, in the Hindu world-view, are inseparably twinned with the austere and the contemplative.

This treasure of Hindu sacred art did not win the favour of the establishment. The Pro Vice Chancellor issued a verbal request that the exhibition be closed, which the Dean of the Fine Arts Faculty, Dr Shivaji Panikkar, ignored. A written order followed, and was similarly ignored. The Pro Vice Chancellor then arrived at the venue, accompanied by some members of the Syndicate of the University. They requested Dr Panikkar to close down the exhibition, then ordered him to do so. When it became clear that the Dean would not bend to their will, they had the exhibition locked.

It appears that the champions of a resurgent Hindu identity are acutely embarrassed by the presence of the erotic at the centre of Hindu sacred art. As they may well be, for the roots of Hindutva do not lie in Hinduism. Rather, they lie in a crude mixture of German romanticism, Victorian puritanism and Nazi methodology.

What happens next? Will the champions of Hindutva go around the country destroying temple murals, breaking down monuments, and burning manuscripts and folios?

Open Letter from Gulammohammed Sheikh

Dear friends

You must have known through media reports that Chandra Mohan, a student from the Department of Graphics at the Fine Arts College in Baroda has been arrested on 9th of May 2007 for making an allegedly controversial painting depicting nude figures with some religious motifs. The arrest followed the storming of the university premises by a group of outsiders. The work in question was part of a display in the college premises for assessment by a team of examiners for a Master's degree in Fine Arts. Charged with sections 153 and 114 as well as sections 295 A and 295 B, he has been denied bail and is presently in Central Jail, Baroda.

In a civilized society any dispute on a controversial depiction or content of a work of art can be dealt with through dialogue and consultation with experts in the field rather than left to self-appointed moral police employing coersive means. In the present case, the outsiders taking law into their hands barged into the university campus without prior permission, did not consult or inform the Dean of the Faculty before disrupting the annual examinations in progress. The reports are that they returned again to abuse the Dean and threatened him with dire consequences.

Such an instance of assault on a student by outsiders in the university premises is unprecedented in the history of the Faculty of Fine Arts and must be condemned in no uncertain terms. The Fine Arts College known nationally and internationally for upholding the highest standards of creative and critical practice has also earned reputation for its firm commitment to the freedom of expression. The former authorities of the university like Smt. Hansa Mehta, the very first Vice Chancellor in the fifties up to Prof. Bhikhu Parekh in the eighties have stood by the Faculty and its ideals. The present assault seems to strike at the very ideals on which it was built by pioneering artist-academics and supported by enlightened university authorities. The present administration of the university has not initiated any action against the trespassers or applied for bail for the victimized student. The students and staff of the Fine Arts College have organized a dharna and the Acting Dean, Prof. Shivaji Panikker has planned to undertake a hunger strike in the College premises against the assault on the student and callous attitude of the university authorities. (Latest report is that the Department of Art History has been sealed and Prof Panikker has been suspended by the university authorities). A solidarity demonstration of artists, intellectuals and cultural workers from all over India is called on 14th of May at the Fine Arts College premises beginning 2 pm with an appeal to all concerned to gather there to lend their support. (Contact details below*).

As an alumnus and former teacher of the Faculty of Fine Arts, I fear these developments may imperil the working of an institution which in many ways has formed our lives; and is indeed an integral part of what we are today. I hope all other alumni and teachers as well as concerned artists and intellectuals of the country will come forward to protect it in its moment of crisis when the values it stands for are threatened.

Gulammohammed Sheikh
11th May, 2007

Faculty of Fine Arts (or Fine Arts College),
Pushpabug, University Road, Vadodara (Baroda) 390002

14th May, 2 p.m. onwards

Contact emails: Shivaji Panikker: shivji dot panikkar at gmail dot com
Deeptha Achar : deeptha dot achar at gmail dot com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The right Question will be:
1) What is the motive of the judge who without applying his mind handed out the 5 days jail sentence.
2) Who tipped the media when vandals entered private viewing area or media is the one who instigated it and has a bigger plan on TRP front.