Many of you must be following the drama ensuing at the prestigious Fine Arts Faculty, Maharao Sayaji University, Baroda with some concern.
It’s the same university where a student, Chandra Mohan was arrested for allegedly making some “indecent” paintings of Hindu and Christian gods and thus “disturbing the peace and harmony of the city of Vadodara”. http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/may/10art.htm
People have different opinions on this issue. Some people question the limits of the right to freedom that an artist has. But here, the point to be noted is that the paintings made by the artist were not on public display, but for an exhibition for the students and teachers of the university. (Sort of like our R&D showcase, minus the formal inviations we send to the press and to other institutes). They were made as practical examination assignments, and as such, no one had any right whatsoever to judge them except for the course evaluator/instructor. Since the paintings were not on display for general public, the question for upsetting any decency or hurting religious sentiments or disturbing peace does not arise. Any such accusations against the painting, therefore, completely baseless.
Word about the paintings being “indencent” somehow and got out, and some local leaders of the ruling party took it upon themsleves to “clean up” their surroundings. For this purpose, they forcefully entered the faculty where the exhibition was being held, bashed up the student (according to eyewitnesses) and racuously abused the faculty and students present there. Since they were from the ruling party, they as well got the police on the scene, and got the student arrested.
I think it’s very clear that neither the local leaders, nor the police had any right to pass judgements upon the paintings made for a course examination. One person to do so was the Dean, Fine Arts Faculty, eminent art historian Professor Shivaji Pannikar. And what happened when he said he found nothing wrong with the paintings?
He was arrested on god-knows-what charges. Not just that, even suspended from university services by an administration which seems to be a mere puppet in the hands of the extremists sitting in the government. Later released on bail, he still as of now stands suspended. The students of the university are fighting an uphill battle against the shamelessly biased puppet university administration to get their beloved professor back in service. They’re raging a fierce protest. Some students got arrested on god-knows-what charges a few days back. Many others are on hunger strike. The scholarly art students of the best art university in the country are facing stand-offs with the riff raff youth wing of the ruling party. Threats etc. have now become commonplace for them.
In their hour of trouble, I think we should extend our whole hearted support for them, as students for students. I’ve planned a signature campaign. A write up will be prepared expressing our solidarity for our counterparts in the Fine Arts Faculty, MSU. Every IIITian is expected to sign it, and it will be express delivered (sent by tuesday)to some of my friends in the Fine Arts Faculty who’re leading the protests over there.
This might seem trivial, but in times of difficulty, even the smallest word of encouragement from unexpected quarters is a big confidence booster. This small gesture of ours will be highly apprecialted and welcomed by the protesting MSU studnets. Let’s show them we are with them.
PS: All those with me on this issue can drop a comment or let me know otherwise. I’ll be getting back to them for their signatures.
PPS: For full details on this issue, please read http://fineartsfacultymsu.blogspot.com/