Prominent personalities from various walks of life had voiced their protest against ‘suppression of free thought’
Express News Service
Mumbai, May 14: IT was a protest that turned into a celebration, when news of young artist Chandramohan Srilamantula’s release from a jail in Vadodara reverberated across Mumbai’s cultural circuit. The citizens who had gathered outside Jehangir Art Gallery on Tuesday marked the occasion with applause and cheer.
However, though the mood was jubilant, those gathered outside the gallery, along with the Free Chandramohan Committee, made it a point to emphasise that the struggle for freedom of expression was not quite over.
“Our task is not over. We still have to protect the rights of academic institutes to nurture free expression and thought and secure Dean Shivji Panikkar’s reassignment to his post,” said art-critic Ranjit Haskote.
Earlier, on May 9, members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, led by local BJP leader Niraj Jain, stormed into the campus of Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University in Vadodara and abused and attacked Srilamantula claiming that they found his work obscene and offensive to religious sentiments.
The whole incident evoked strong reactions everywhere. In Mumbai, two hundred people including prominent personalities from various walks of life like artist Tyeb Mehta, Jehangir Sabavala, gallery owner and art champion Kekoo Gandhy, art-critic Ranjit Hoskote, filmmaker Chitra Palekar, danseuse Jhelum Paranjepae, actresses Konkona Sen and Ayesha Dharkar, playwright Pratap Singh and several others gathered at the Jehangir Art Gallery with banners that read ‘Down with Moral Policing’ and ‘Defend our Cultural Freedom’.
“Incidents like these are not isolated and concern all of us since it's something to do with violation of our civil liberties,” said art-critic Hoskote. Dharkar pointed out that it was disappointing that Pro Vice Chancellor of the Maharaja Sayajirao University rusticated the Dean.
Painter MF Hussain too sent his message via fax from London. He sent a painting that depicted the fall of democracy and the oppression of free thought. Theatre person Nadira Babbar said, “MF Hussain has not been able to see the play Pencil Se Brush Tak which we dedicated to him because he is unable to return home. We should be ashamed at the way we have given in to fundamentalist forces. It is time to raise our voices,” she said.
Paranjepae added: “Even Indian classical dance derives its mudras from Indian’s erotic sculptures. Are we going to ban that next?”