Monday 16 July 2007

GUJARAT GOVERNER APPOINTS AFACT FINDING COMMITTEE TO EXAMINE MS UNIVERSITY INCIDENT

GUJARAT GOVERNER APPOINTS AFACT FINDING COMMITTEE TO EXAMINE MS UNIVERSITY INCIDENTGandhinagar: Dt 12-7-2007: Thursday: As the first step towards resolving the crisis prevailing in the MS University, Vadodara following the incidents of alleged attack upon its fine arts faculty by so-called ‘moral police’ on May 9th 2007 and the subsequent developments, Gujarat Governeor Shri Nawal Kishore Sharma as the Visitor of Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara has appointed a three members committee to find out the facts relating to the incidents.The Committee consisting of Prof. Y.K. Alagh, Chairman IRMA as its convenor and Prof Sudarshan Iyengar, Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapith and Shri Hakubhai Shah, eminent artist and art critic as members would carry out detailed examination of facts, the role and behaviour of different functionaries and authorities of the MSU and suggest measure for amicable solution of the existing crisis and long term measures to prevent such incidents from re-occuring in future, the committee is expected to submit its report at theearliest preferably within three weeks.It is to be recalled that the incident in question occurred at t Fine Arts Students work display during their annual examination on May 9th, 2007. A so called ‘moral police’ group reportedly led by Shri Niraj Jain protested against certain artworks as hurting the sentiments of faith and decency of the society. In the process, in-charge dean, other staff members and students were allegedly abused and threatened and final year student Shri Chandra Mohan and Shri Venkat Rao were arrested. Five exhibits were also removed and sealed as reportedly asked by Police. Prof Shivaji Panikkar, in-charge Dean of the faculty was suspended without framing charges or following procuedure on May 10th, 2007 and stopped from entering into the University.A number of organizations and citizens, artists, University teachers, human right activists and students protesting th incidents approached Gujarat Governor as Visitor of MSU to seek his help to resolve the crisis. On due considerations on the above representations, the Governor found it expedient to first have the facts ascertained before deciding to invke his powers as Visitor of the MS University toinstitute a statuory inquiry into the incidents. The Governor, therefore, has appointed the above Fact Finding Committee which would examine and ascertain among other things the issue of obscenity etc of the artworks in question, the role, conduct and behaviour of different university authorities and officals in handling the situation, action of suspension of the in-charge Dean Prof. Panikkar and related issues in details and submit its repot to the Governor soon.

Saturday 14 July 2007

STATEMENT OF FACTS BY SHABNAM HASHMI + dateline

  • The MSU Syndicate in its meeting ratified the decision of VC on the suspension issue and has not taken any decision regarding the wide scale criticism over the composition of the Vice Chancellor’s Inquiry Committee which is presently investigating into the incidents at the Faculty of Fine Arts. Minutes and resolution to this effect issued on 7 June 2007
  • Professor Romila Thapar, Professor Jayati Ghosh, Professor Shivaji Panikkar and others address Press Conference organized by SAHMAT at Press Club, New Delhi on 29 May
  • On 5 June, the Registrar SMSed Professor Panikkar asking him to submit results of various papers being examined at the graduate and post graduate examinations and allowing him permission to enter the campus for this purpose. Professor Panikkar replied that as per law he could submit results only if the suspension was withdrawn. The Registrar clarified that the suspension had not been withdrawn but urged Professor Panikkar to submit results anyway. Professor Panikkar then reiterated that as per law it was illegal to discharge any official responsibility while under suspension. Recently, in spite of the legal clarifications offered, Professor Panikkar has yet again been asked to submit results by the Registrar.
  • On 9 June, staff members of the Faculty gave the Governor, in his capacity as a Visitor to the University, a Memorandum that apprised him of the situation. The primary demands of the staff members were the following:
    1. An FIR be lodged by the University authorities against Niraj Jain and associates for intruding into the University premises without permission.
    2. The attached artworks be released forthwith to enable the completion of evaluation and declaration of result
    3. The suspension of i/c Dean, Professor Shivaji K Panikkar who was the only University authority who attempted to prevent the disruption of examinations, protect the students and redress their grievances, be revoked unconditionally with immediate effect.
    4. That the Governor, as the Visitor to the University, intervene and set up an inspection into all the official actions taken by the university authorities with regard to the Faculty of Fine Arts, as their actions clearly compromise the autonomy of the University and violate the sanctity and integrity of University education.
    5. That appropriate action be initiated against the Vice Chancellor for abdication of responsibility towards the University at a critical moment, failure to take action against the intruders and disruption of the examination process.
    6. To set up, in his Capacity as the Governor of Gujarat State, a Judicial Level committee to inquire into the entire events starting from the Fine Arts Faculty to the developments thereafter, like the announcement of a reward of Rs. 1 lakh for a nude portrait of Prophet Mohammed by Mr. Deepak Shah, a senate member of the University and the appearance of the nude portrait of Prophet Mohammed in the D.N, Hall in the main University Campus, that led to a riot-like situation in the Old City area of Vadodara.

    Such an inquiry, the staff members felt was of prime importance particularly since there was a clear indication that a section of the public was actively trying not only to vitiate the atmosphere in the University but was also instigating and provoking religious clashes among people of various faiths. The students and Chandramohan also petitioned the Governor about the events that occurred in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

  • The University reopened. The strike by the students which was suspended on 14 May was restared. More than 150 students gathered at the Faculty ; huge banners were put up reiterating demands to file FIR against Niraj Jain, to revoke suspension of Shivaji Panikkar and protesting University apathy in general. The students continue the dharna at the Faculty till 21 May. The students wrote a letter of appeal to the general public elucidating their point of view, and highlighting Chandra Mohan’s position as a student. Their appeal was carried widely in the Gujarati papers- and the heartening thing was that the local opinion and the local media were and continue to be quite sympathetic.
  • The Staff members also decide to protest against University decisions regarding the Faculty, primarily the decision to suspend Professor Shivaji Panikkar. The Dean, Professor Deepak Kannal tried to mediate between the University authorities and the Faculty of Fine Arts but no headway was made.
  • A delegation of staff members meet the VC to discuss the issue on the 22 May but the talks are disappointing as the University position did not show any significant shift from that of 11 May. The teachers later apprise the Chancellor of the meeting between them and the VC on the 27 May. The students also stage a dharna at the University office on 22 May for the first time and hand over a memorandum stating their demands to the VC. They continue staging dharna at the University office till date. They made the following demands:
    1. An FIR be filed against Mr. Niraj Jain and his associates by the University for disrupting the examination evaluation process and forcefully entering into the examination hall.
    2. The confiscated works be returned to the students/Faculty with an immediate effect in order to complete the evaluation process.
    3. Immediate and unconditional revocation of the suspension of Professor Shivaji K Panikkar.
    4. Disbanding of the biased inquiry committee.

  • On 23 June, the alumni of the Faculty were invited by the students to paint on canvases to symbolize solidarity with students and staff of the Faculty. Senoir artists like Jyoti Bhatt, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Natraj Sharma and others participated. The Painting Department building was draped in black plastic to suggest the gagging of the Faculty.
  • On 25 June the Baroda University Teacher’s Union demanded the revocation of the suspension of Shivaji Panikkar and condemned the attack on Fine Arts and disruption of Exams on 9/May/07. Later, on 2 July, BUTA members met with the Governor and urged His Excellency to look into the matter.
  • The general University position so far has been that Professor Panikkar should write a note of explanation/apology and the University would revoke the suspension. This however would not entail the dissolution of the Inquiry Committee which would continue to function. Professor Panikkar has refused to do so. The Faculty position is that any revocation of the suspension order should be unconditional and with honor.
  • On 26 June, students asked the VC to respond to their demands listed out in the Memorandum that they had given earlier. The VC said that he had conveyed the response to the Dean. The Dean denied being informed anything by the University authorities. The students, not getting a satisfactory answer from the authorities, decide to go on a relay hunger strike. On 29 June 70 students sit on a mass token hunger strike. This is followed by relay hunger strike by 5 students a day. This has continued till date. From 4 July onwards, the Faculty staff have joined the students on the relay hunger strike.
  • On 2 July, a protest rally was taken to the University office. Twice the Vice Chancellor met student representatives. The V.C. refused to respond to the queries of the students and merely asked them to return to their classes. The next day, University officials lock the entry gate to the office. When protesting students sat in front of University gate locked by University officials, they were accused of obstructing the functioning of the office. Students relocated away from the gate. V.C. addressed the protesters and instructed them to leave. The police were called in to arrest the peaceful and silent protesters. All students (about 45) detained at Fatehgunj police station. Striking teachers arrive at police station to lend support. The students were let off at 6:00 pm
  • On 5 July, Dean Deepak Kannal along with Prof. Shivaji Panikkar, Vasudevan Akkitham, i/c Head of the Painting Department and S Santhosh, meet with University authorities negotiate the matter with disappointing results. Representatives of the University merely reiterate the earlier position of the authorities. The officials accused the Faculty of Fine Arts of malpractices within the campus.
  • The next day, 6 July students turn up at the Faculty in large numbers. BUTA members join students in hunger strike, more than 100 University teachers join the Dharna in support. Dean Deepak Kannal resigns in protest of University apathy.
  • Prof. Shivaji Panikkar assaulted in Ahmedabad on 6 July where he had gone to inaugurate a students’ poster exhibition on communal harmony. In what was clearly a pre-planned attack, Professor Panikkar’s taxi-cab was attacked by about 15-20 assailants carrying lathis, stones and bricks as well as an iron drum which was used to shatter the windshield, windows and smash the body of the car. Professor Panikkar was manhandled, but managed to escape. His driver, Vijay Rajput sustained injuries on his face, hand and neck. An unknown outfit called Hindu Samrajya Sena has claimed the attack. An FIR was filed at Navrangpura Police Station, Ahmedabad. No arrests have been made so far, despite photographs of the attack being available.
  • On Saturday, 7 July, students block Faculty office in condemnation of the attack on Professor Shivaji Panikkar. Later students allow office staff to enter and then surround the office, stopping people from going in or out. The Registrar and Dy. Registrar ask the students to withdraw the protest. Students decline in the absence of concrete steps to resolve the issue. University releases Final year BFA students’ results. The next day, students along with staff members and Professor Shivaji Panikkar go to Ahmedabad to address meeting organized by All India Save Education Committee and appraise the gathering of the current situation.

STATEMENT OF FACTS BY SHABNAM HASHMI (ANHAD) ON THE AATACK BY THE SANGH PARIVAR ON JULY 6, 2007 AT ST XAVIER'S SOCIAL SERVICE SOCIAL SERVICE SOCIETY

Find herewith a detailed report by Shabnam Hashmi of
ANHAD, the organizer of the event. Shivaji K Panikkar

Anhad is organizing the National Student's Festival
for Peace, Communal Harmony and Justice (July 6-8,
2007) in Ahmedabad. The festival is showcasing the
selected entries from across India -60 paintings by
school children, 80 design entries by media students
and 45 student documentary films.

Anhad invited Prof. Shivji Panikkar to inaugurate the
Exhibition (at Father Erviti Memorial hall, St
Xavier's Social Service Society), and Nafisa Ali to
inaugurate the Student Video Documentary Film Festival
(Diamond Jubilee Auditorium, Loyola Hall, St Xavier's
High School Campus). The inauguration of the
exhibition was at 10.30. The exhibition of the Student
Film Festival was at 11.30pm.

I was waiting for Panikkar to come. Around 10.40, I
called him and he said he is about to reach. Nafisa
Ali had already arrived. After speaking to Nafisa for
a few minutes I walked towards the gate to receive
Panikkar. As I reached the gate of the Xavier's campus
I was shocked to see Panikkar's car surrounded by a
Mob. They were shouting slogans Panikkar go back.
Bharat mata ki jai …

I pushed myself inside the crowd and reached
Panikkar's car, the mob was throwing stones, one of
them threw a large rusted iron drum on the bonnet of
the car , the same drum was thrown again on the car ,
the drum cracked the front car glass . Sahir who had
by now reached and was just behind me, managed to take
away the drum from a goon's hand, and take it away, in
the process injuring himself. Two of the attackers
threw two bricks which broke the front glass, one of
the bricks hit the driver on the forehead.

All this happened at a very fast speed and it took me
sometime to come to senses. I stood near the door so
that mob could not drag out Panikkar which they were
trying to do and then I started shouting at the top of
my voice at the mob. For a few moments everything
stopped and they moved backwards. I told Panikkar and
the driver to take away the car at full speed as I as
an organizer was unable to guarantee any security. I
told them to rush to the nearest Police station. By
now the mob realised that they were trying to leave
and they tried to block the car from leaving and
continued to throw stones. Fortunately the driver
speeded up and was able to move away.

Gagan Sethi and Gauhar Raza, who were at the venue
immediately rushed to the Police station, Navrangpura
and told we informed Panikkar on the phone to go to
the same police station.

Mob had already broken all our festival hoardings
which were outside the gate. Now they forced their
entry into the compound raising slogans Modi amar
rahe, desh ke gaddaron wapas jao and bharat mata ki
jai ( all in Gujarat) and started breaking and
vandalising the display in the compound (outside the
exhibition hall) mobbed and threatened Sarup Ben,
Zakia Jowher, Bina ben (from aman samudaya) and me.
They used highly abusive, sexist and filthy language.
Their body language and gestures were highly
aggressive and vulgar. The attack on Bina , Zakia and
Sarup ben was of being 'gaddars' (traitors). The
attack on me was of insulting gujarati asmita being an
outsider and entering Gujarat. This continued for
about 20 minutes. Then suddenly a signal from one of
them( which later I realized was a police man from
local intelligence- who was part of the mob) that
police was coming, made all of them leave suddenly.

After the police arrived, the man in plain clothes was
standing with them and I went and told the police that
this man was part of the mob, which they ignored and
said he is from the police. Later in the police
station I again showed the man to the Police Inspector
Desai, but he also ignored it completely.

It was very clear that the attack was master minded by
the police and the BJP and the Sangh combine.

After the commotion was over around 12.30 we announced
that we will defer the opening of the exhibition.
Nafisa Ali inaugurated the Film Festival.

We went to the police station around 1 pm by now
Panikkar's FIR was being lodged. I spoke to Desai the
PI ( Police Inspector) and said I need to lodge an FIR
too, which he refused. We decided to return later with
the lawyer.

After all the formalities of Panikkar's FIR were over,
we took Panikkar to the exhibition under police
protection and inaugurated the exhibition around
2.30pm.

Then we called the lawyer, prepared the complaint and
meanwhile developed the photographs which were taken
of the mob.

We went to the police station around 5pm with the
lawyer and we were there almost till 9pm. The police
refused to file an FIR. I spoke to the Police
Commissioner on the phone I was told both by the PI
and the commissioner that we should have taken
permission from the police to holds the programme as
we were using loud speakers! We informed both of them
that the programme was inside the premises of an
institution, inside halls and not in a public place.
The PI said you can not show films. These are student
video documentaries, and for film lovers and students
by invitation.

It is very clear that by lodging the FIR from me on
Anhad's behalf, Police will have to arrest the members
of the mob as we have provided their photographs and
also they will also have to take some action against
the local intelligence man(whose involvement the
Police Commisioner has already refuted). I have given
all details at the back of the photographs to the
police of the people who attacked the car, the man who
threw the brick, the man who threw the rusted drum,
the goons who mobbed us. Their faces are circled in
the photographs that are being circulated with this
note.

When the attack took place on Panikkar's there were at
least three video camera's and a number of
photographers. The footage seems to have vanished.

Anhad is organising a meeting of activists and
academicians today at 4 at Ahmedabad.

Shabnam Hashmi

Ahmedabad

A perspective on the MSU events.

Friends, I'm taking the liberty to jot down some thoughts on the MSU
and Husain attacks in the recent past. As a veteran target of BJP/RSS
assaults and their hate propaganda machine beginning with the SAHMAT
'Hum Sab Ayodhya' exhibit fracas in August 1993, we did learn a few
lessons. http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1816/18160760.htm

We cannot clearly understand the ground realities of these assaults
without understanding the politics of the larger cultural agenda of
the Sangh Parivar. Husain was the perfect target for them for the last
12 years. He was Muslim, he was the most famous artist in India, his
vast range of subject matter included Hindu icons. It was very easy
for the Sangh to project distorted interpretations of his modernist
vocabulary. But I think we have to understand that these hate
campaigns are aimed primarily at rousing the Hindutva constituency
themselves. They usually occur when things are not going well for the
sangh politically…loosing electoral support etc. If, as a fallout, the
propaganda is successful in spreading their poison in the larger civil
society, all the better.

The assault on the Baroda department clarifies the broadening agenda
of the Sangh assault on the secular and liberal cultural space. It has
shifted beyond the 'Muslims'…Husain, Shabana, Amir Khan. The Sangh is
not interested in Shivji Pannikar, Chandramohan, their essays or their
art. They couldn't care less what happens to them. I think it's very
clear they are out to destroy the department, and eventually fill it
with their own appointees. The very source of all these 'liberal
secular' artists and scholars will be sliced off at the root. Witness
what has happened to institutions at the centre or the states when the
Sangh has been in control: The IGNCA in Delhi, Bharat Bhavan in
Bhopal. It should also be clearly understood that the Sangh works
extremely systematically. The Jain invasion of the review session was
not spontaneous and isolated. Within days, photocopies of
Chandramohan's images were in discussion at the BJP parliamentary
board meeting in Delhi, Arun Jaitley was writing on them in the
newspapers, Sushma Swaraj was hosting an official BJP symposium on
'Obscene Art'. The idea that a 'discussion' should be initiated with
the BJP or Maneka Gandhi or Advani is very naïve. We should also
realise this is agenda not restricted to Gujarat alone.

The entire arts community is a target. We are all at risk as it is
open season now. While liberal voices are rightly raised in protest,
we should also realise these mean nothing to the Sangh parivar. they
could not care less. The only counter to them can be political, and
our voices are our only means of trying to persuade other political
forces to counter this hate machine politically. We can only hope they
will be heard.

Postscript: On a more positive note, I'd like to quote from Geeta
Kapur's remarks on Ramu Gandhi at his memorial at the IIC in Delhi a
few weeks ago. Mentioning that she had a conversation with Ramu on
Husain and his forced exile shortly before Ramu's death, Geeta quoted
Ramu:

Ramu was extremely pained by the fact of Husain's imposed exile, he
said " I cannot understand why they are attacking Husain. He is like a
child. How can they attack him? He is like a toymaker ..like our
traditional toymakers everywhere….he takes ideas, images, materials
and colours and he plays with them like a child …like a toymaker, and
like those toymakers, he will conjure up an image….and some of them
will magically be icons…"

I was very moved by this, and apologise to Geeta for quoting it, but I
felt it important to share!!!

Regards, Ram.

Thursday 31 May 2007

Message from Mr. Girish Karnad

It's scandalous

The whole episode at the MS University, Baroda is scandalous at several levels:

1) At a basic level, every citizen of India--whether an artist or not--has the right to express himself.

2) In the present case, the self-expression did not take place in public but within the private domain, and so could not hurt any outsider.

3)The artist in this case was working as a part of an academic course and the person to decide whether he or she was acting in an acceptable manner was his or her supervisor or dean or head of department or the vice-chancellor. It is to guard this tradition that universities are made autonomous bodies. And outside organs, like the police, are forbidden from entering the campus without the express permission from the head.

4) The worst culprit in the present case is the Vice-Chancellor. It is his duty to ensure the safety of his students and staff and to safeguard the smooth funcioning of the university. The VC should have thrown the police out and demanded the release of the student. What he has done in fact is completely irresponsible. Certainly, in my entire life, in my dealings with many universities, I have not seen or heard of such shocking behaviour. The VC should be asked to resign and if he doesn't, sacked for derilection of duty.

This is not a minor episode. It foreshadows developments which could endanger the very basis of our civilization. If we let this go through without opposition, only deluge will follow.

Girish Karnad
14 May 2007

Condemn repression of artists in M.S.University,Vadodara by M.S.Thimmappa Former Vice Chancellor,Bangalore University.

Closure of the exhibition of students paintings in the Fine Arts Department of M.S.University,Baroda by the so called activists and the University authorities is highly condemnable.University is the promoter and torchbearer of freedom of thought and expression.The Vice Chancellor of the university has committed dereliction of his primary
duty.India all through the ages has been nurturing divergence of ideas,faith and actions.The actions of those so called Hindu Activist is truly un-Indian.I express my solidarity and support to the group which is spearheading the protest, let us keep on protesting till the authorities rescind their heinous actions.

M.S.Thimmappa
Former Vice Chancellor,
Bangalore University.