Sunday, 13 May, 2007
Artists unite against moral police. Supriya Sharma NDTV.COM
Saturday, May 12, 2007 (Vadodara)
“ We have suffered enough. Cant allow this bullying to happen ”
- Shivaji Panikkar
The face-off between artists and the saffron brigade in Vadodara's M S University continues.
Members of the Fine Arts Faculty have gone on a mass casual leave in support of the suspended Dean, Shivaji Panikkar.
A local court meanwhile has extended the police custody of art student Chandra Mohan till Monday.
Chandra Mohan was attacked by VHP activists and jailed for so-called 'obscene art' but VHP activists are not satisfied. They now want Panikkar who defended Chandra Mohan's work to be arrested.
Autonomy at stake
Prof Panikkar, the dean in charge, was suspended on Friday night and has now gone into hiding, hounded by the moral police.
Panikkar met NDTV and broke down as he said this is a battle that now needs reinforcements. ''We have suffered enough. Cant allow this bullying to happen.''
There is enough support for Professor Panikkar, not just from artists but also from the university's teachers association.
Even a senate member argued that what is at stake is not just the freedom of an artist but the autonomy of an academic institution.
''Are we to allow people to walk into campus and tell us what we should be doing and what not. If this is allowed to happen then there's no end to it,'' said Prof Indraparamit Roy, faculty member.
''In the last few years, university has been taken over by the RSS. What you see today is ultimate saffronisation. Either you agree with us or else we bash you up. It is happening in appointments, promotions. The disgusting thing is the role of the Vice Chancellor who is meant to be a symbol of intellectual freedom,'' Prof Bandukwala, former faculty member.
On the face of it, this looks like solid support for the premier faculty of fine arts in what is one of the worst moments in its more than 50 years of history. But the odds against it are high.
BJP leaders argue that local leader Niraj Jain, who led the attack which ended in the student's arrest, did not violate the law.
''It is clear that the professors are misleading the students. No one has the right to hurt Hindu sentiment just because we are tolerant,'' said N V Patel, Head of Baroda BJP.
The student arrested is still behind bars, the dean stands suspended and the legal fight will have to be fought not just against VHP activist but against the university and as some would argue the law itself.