An intolerable violation of cultural and academic freedom by communal forces took place in Baroda on Wednesday, 9 May 2007, when a group ofVishwa Hindu Parishad goons led by local BJP leader Niraj Jain stormedinto the campus of the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University, Baroda. Breaking into the annual display of the final year students, the goonsabused and attacked a student, Chandramohan, claiming that they found his works obscene and offensive to religious sentiments. The police, entering the campus, arrested Chandramohan without aproper warrant and without consulting the Faculty of Fine Arts, whileallowing the inflammatory Jain and his goons to go free. Later, Jain was cordially received by the Vice-Chancellor of the University. Thisaugust functionary has not only refused to register a FirstInformation Report against Jain, but has also refused to extend any assistance to Chandramohan. Indeed, the Vice-Chancellor has demandedthat the student and the Dean of the Faculty of Fine arts shouldapologise to Jain.Chandramohan is now being held by the police while a charge-sheet is being prepared. He has been charged with various non-bailableoffences, including the attempt to incite communal disharmony andpublic obscenity.This constitutes a straightforward violation of a young artist's right to express himself. It is also a grave case of the invasion ofacademic space by the police. Had such an incident taken place inDhaka or Islamabad, we would all have been protesting against thedictatorial ways of authority.Questions before UsThe Baroda outrage raises serious questions about the State's ability,or even desire, to protect the cultural freedoms of individuals. We strongly condemn all attempts on the part of communal forces toviolate cultural freedoms.The Baroda outrage takes on an ominous colour, given the history ofinfringements of artistic freedom during the last two decades, especially the campaign of vilification and persecution launchedagainst M F Husain, and the rise of a chilling intolerance.Can we allow India to become an illiberal democracy, guided bycompeting populisms? Surely the onus, in such cases, should be on the people who create communal disharmony, using a cultural work as theirpretext, and not on artists? Archana HandeD/701, Gokul ParadiseThakur Complex, Kandivali-eastMumbai-400101IndiaPh: Home-- +91+22+28542511mobile-- +91 9820358058
The latest news from Baroda is that the University has suspended the acting Dean Prof.Shivaji Panikkar from his job and there is alsopressure to make him a co-accused along with Chandramohan. Chandramohan is still not able to get out on bail because the BJP-VHPis creating furore at the court and forcing it to adjourn. Tomorrowand the day after being court holidays(Saturday & Sunday) the plan is to impart exemplary punishment to Chandu and terrorise the faculty whoare accused of indecency and harboring anti-Gujarat sentiments!!!The local press along with The Univ authority is cahoots with theBJP/VHP and portraying all of us as public enemies who not only allow display of indecent pictures but condone such behavior!In the caredfully orchestrated melee no one is raising the realquestion that how come the police in uniform walk into the facultypremises without anybody's permission and take away a student without even bothering to inform the In-charge Dean. For that matter theUniversity is not only refusing to take legal action against Mr NiravJain for trespassing and using abusive language and threats in theFaculty premises but no one from the University has appointed a lawyer to fight Chandu's case. Dr Narendra Parmar,the advocate who isfighting on our behalf is approached through the good offices of MrRahul Amin(Industrialist and patron of art).The students put up a small display of plates from the archive today to highlight the point that art always dealt with themes that arecontroversial and non-conformist but that was sealed by the Pro-VC whomarched into the faculty along with 4 Syndicate members and orderedProf Panikkar to shut it. When Prof Panikkar refused point blank he not only braught the exhibition down but also sealed the archive ofthe Art History department. A police complaint was also logded by MrJain to arrest Shivaji and make him a co-accused in the Chandramohancase.Mr Jain who happens to be the head of VHP's legal cell is alsoreprted (as published in The Indian Express today) to have openlydared anybody to lodge an FIR as he would bring the whole city to astand still. There are also reports of burning of Shivaji's effigy in Manjalpur area of the city yesterday. Sveral students have alsoreported intimidation outside the Faculty premises.It is also broughtto our notice that several faculty members are to be targetted by theUniversity. Later in the evening news reached us that in an emergency meeting the VC has taken the decision to suspend Prof Panikkar.Yours sincerelyIndrapramit RoySr LecturerDepartment of paintingfaculty of Fine ArtsMSU of BarodaOn 11/05/07, Art India Magazine wrote:The Free Chandramohan Committee: Public Meeting, 12 May 2007The Free Chandramohan Committee will hold a public meeting on Saturday, 12 May 2007, at 6 pm at Gallery Chemould Prescott Road, toprotest against the arrest of the young artist Chandramohan by theBaroda police earlier this week.The meeting will be addressed by a number of speakers, among them noted cultural activists, commentators, film-makers, lawyers andartists, who will express solidarity with Chandramohan and draw uppractical measures to secure his release.Among other issues, the meeting will discuss the ways by which the constitutional safeguards can be implemented, as well as legalredress by which the onus in cases of alleged incitement of communaldisharmony can be placed squarely on demagogues who distort artworks for their own political ends. More significantly, a lunatic fringecannot claim monopoly over public space. Let us resolve not to cedepublic space to the forces of intolerance.Date: 12 May 2007 (Saturday) Time: 6 pmPlace: Gallery Chemould Prescott RoadQueens Mansion (3rd Floor)A K Naik MargFort, Mumbai 400 001Phones: 91 22 22000211, 91 22 22000212, 91 22 22000213 Email: email@example.com
To:The Governor,Gujarat SateIndia11th May 2007
Ref: Attack on artistic freedom in Baroda
We, artists based in Bangalore, strongly condemn the recent series of events in Baroda, where a student of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA), M.S. University, has been detained in gross violation of the law and of his right to freedom of ex-pression and artistic freedom. We see the incidents that occurred on May 9th and 10th, 2007, during the annual examination display at the FFA a yet another instance of censorship by self-appointed guardians of morality which goes against the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of ex-pression.In this case the artistic works deemed offensive were not even in the public domain, nor were they meant for public viewing: they were displayed in an educational institution as part of the academic process. Action taken against a student on the basis of work in an educational institution goes against the very concept of education.Under the circumstances the case/charges against the artist are clearly false. In addition the police obviously did not follow proper legal procedures. This suggests that they were colluding the instigator of the action rather than upholding the law.This is yet another example of self-appointed moral police taking the law into their own hands (often with the active connivance of the state) and attempting to enforce their particular, narrow values and morals on the rest of society. This is clearly undemocratic.It is also an example of the growing and unfortunate trend towards playing politics with artistic ex-pression.We see the case against the student, Chandramohan, as a serious miscarriageof justice. We strongly condemn attempts on the part of communal and political outfits to intimidate citizens exercising their right to artistic ex-pression.
We are also disturbed to learn that the Vice Chancellor of M. S. University has refused to file an F.I.R. against Neeraj Jain, who engineeered engineer the unfortunate episode which should have never taken place in a democratic nation.
We express our solidarity with Chandramohan and pledge our commitment to nurture and protect freedom of ex-pression, including artistic ex-pression, in this country.
We trust that you will uphold the constitution and ensure that justice is done in this cast
Representatives of the community of artists in BangaloreC/0 71, S.T.Bed LayoutKoramangalaBangalore 560 034
Subject: Hindu Sacred Art Offends Self-appointed Custodians of Hindu Culture
Hindu Sacred Art Offends Self-appointed Custodians of Hindu Culture
In a grimly ironic turn of events following the 9 May arrest, withouta proper warrant, of Chandramohan, a final-year fine arts student atthe M S University, Baroda, the self-appointed custodians of Hindu culture have now demanded the closure of an exhibition showing thevital role of the erotic in Hindu sacred art.Earlier today, 11 May, students of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the M SUniversity put up an exhibition of reproductions of images drawn from across 2500 years of Indian art. In a silent protest against thebrutality with which their fellow student has been treated forexhibiting works that BJP and VHP activists claim are offensive andobscene, the students put up pictures of the Gudimallam Shiva, perhaps the earliest known Shiva image, which combines the lingam with ananthropomorphic form; a Kushan mukha-linga or masked lingam;Lajja-gouris from Ellora and Orissa, resplendent in their fecundnakedness; erotic statuary from Modhera, Konark and Khajuraho; as well as Raga-mala paintings from Rajasthan. All these images, among thefinest produced through the centuries in the subcontinent, celebratethe sensuous and the passionate dimensions of existence â€“ which, inthe Hindu world-view, are inseparably twinned with the austere and the contemplative.This treasure of Hindu sacred art did not win the favour of theestablishment. The Pro Vice Chancellor issued a verbal request thatthe exhibition be closed, which the Dean of the Fine Arts Faculty, Dr Shivaji Panikkar, ignored. A written order followed, and was similarlyignored. The Pro Vice Chancellor then arrived at the venue,accompanied by some members of the Syndicate of the University. Theyrequested Dr Panikkar to close down the exhibition, then ordered him to do so. When it became clear that the Dean would not bend to theirwill, they had the exhibition locked.It appears that the champions of a resurgent Hindu identity areacutely embarrassed by the presence of the erotic at the centre of Hindu sacred art. As they may well be, for the roots of Hindutva donot lie in Hinduism. Rather, they lie in a crude mixture of Germanromanticism, Victorian puritanism and Nazi methodology.What happens next? Will the champions of Hindutva go around the country destroying temple murals, breaking down monuments, and burningmanuscripts and folios?
May 10, 2007,Mumbai.
State of Gujarat,
We, the artists and art-lovers of Mumbai, are shocked by the series of incidents that occurred during the annual examination display at the Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA), M. S. University, Baroda on May 9 th and 10th, 2007.
In no way do the FFA authorities solicit an audience for the annual examination display. It is a public display in an academic institutional context and there is no compulsion for anyone to attend. In this case, the politically motivated charges against Chandramohan, the student who has been arrested for his supposedly 'objectionable' work are baseless, as he had not mounted a gallery display. Yet, the State Police registered a case against Chandramohan on charges tantamount to 'disrupting public order'. The police arrested Chandramohan without a proper warrant and without any consultation with the concerned authorities of the FFA.
We sincerely believe that art should be seen in specific contexts, aesthetic and conceptual. The State, in its duty to maintain law and order, should not allow for an infringement of the right of ex-pression. The Baroda case raises serious questions about the state's intention to safeguard artists' freedom right to ex-pression.
We see the case against Chandramohan not only as a gross miscarriage of justice. We strongly condemn attempts on the part of communal political outfits to unnecessarily politicize issues connected with artistic ex-pression.
Also disturbing is the news that the Vice Chancellor of M. S. University has refused to file an F.I.R. against Neeraj Jain, the political engineer behind the episode.
We express our solidarity with Chandramohan and pledge our commitment to support the freedom of artistic ex-pression.
The Vice Chancellor, MSU, Vadodara.
The Director General of Police, State of Gujarat.
The Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU, Vadodara (for Information).
Artists from all over India come together to support Baroda art student Chandramohan on Monday, MAY 14, 6 pm. PLEASE JOIN US.Artists from New Delhi, Bangalore, Cochin, Mumbai, Vishakapatnam, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kolkata and Santiniketan will come together on Monday, May 14 at 6 pm to register their protest against the highhanded action taken by the police under the instigation of a local politician against Chandramohan, a student from the Arts Faculty of Baroda University. 23-year-old Chandramohan, a final year MVA student, has been in police custody since May 9 when outside elements forced their way into the premises of the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University, Baroda, without permission from the Faculty or University and prevailed upon the police to arrest him. Charging him under non-bailable Sections, they also imposed immediate closure of the examination work that was underway.
As a mark of protest, artists from the different cities will congregate to raise their collective voice against this violation of freedom of ex-pression and autonomy of educational institutions. They will extend solidarity to the staff and students of Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, who have not only stood steadfast with the incarcerated student Chandramohan, but have over many decades painstakingly built an academic institution of great repute and distinction. The Art History Department of M S University of Baroda is recognized all over the world as a center of excellence.
It is pertinent to state that the said works were part of the final year annual display and were being shown as part of an internal academic assessment exercise being conducted by the faculty. These works were not on public display and in no way intended to be exhibited for public viewing.
The academic functioning of the Department has been further eroded by the stand taken by the leadership of the University. The VC of the University has not only declined to file an FIR against concerned persons who orchestrated the entire violence but has also ordered the Dean and Faculty to tender an unconditional apology. He also passed an order on 11 May, directing the sealing of the Art History Department within the Faculty of Fine Arts for putting up an exhibition of reproductions of images drawn from across 2500 years of Indian art and suspended, the Acting Dean Dr Shivaji Panikkar, for a period of three months. The exhibition, with images from Khajuraho, Konark, Ragamala series, Lajja Gowri sculptures etc, was put together (as an academic response to redress gross misconceptions about Indian art and culture) and an ex-pression of protest against the treatment meted out to their fellow student and colleagues. The University seems to be wanting to bring the Department of Art History under its direct control.Meanwhile, the University has taken no step to give legal aid to Chandramohan, who is a bona fide student and Lalit Kala Akademi winner from Gujarat.The action constitutes an assault on the core values of the University or for that matter of any academic institution in a democratic country like India. We, the artists of India, are marching together as a community to mark our deep dismay and consternation at the chain of events. It is of great urgency that Chandramohan, whose bail hearing has been postponed twice already, be released immediately. And the fundamental freedom of artists and individuals provided to us by the Constitution (be) upheld.Please come to the meetings in large numbers and contact local/national media so that the event gets enough notice. The venues are being firmed up in the various cities and we will send out subsequent mails to inform you.
As of nowNew Delhi meeting is at Rabindra BhavanMumbai at Jehangir GalleryVishakapatnam at Faculty of Fine Arts, Andhra UniversityCochin at Kashi Art CafÃ©