11th May, 2007
National Human Rights’ Commission
We are hereby soliciting your immediate attention to a grave crisis and danger that we the faculty and students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, The M.S. University of Baroda, Baroda are faced with.
On 9th May, 2007, while the Faculty was in the final stages of its annual examination, a VHP/BJP leader, Mr. Niraj Jain, descended on the Faculty and pounced upon certain paintings that were on display as part of the examination work declaring them to be an insult to religion. We may underline the fact that the “display” of the works by the students was for the purpose of evaluation by the external jury and not for public exhibition and the entry to it was restricted. Mr. Niraj Jain and the mob came accompanied by the police and the local media. While a student, S. Chandramohan, whose work it was, and a friend of his (who had come from Andhra Pradesh), were whisked away and put behind bars, Mr. Niraj Jain and his cohorts held the faculty and students to ransom for over 5 hours subjecting them to insults and humiliations in the presence of a contingent of policemen including officers. The In-charge Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Shivaji Panikkar, received the worst of these. The violent incident disrupted the examination process and brutally violated the autonomy of the University. The police had entered the University campus without seeking the Vice-Chancellor’s permission, and allowed a mob of known rabble rousers to take over. Although the friend of Chandramohan was released the same day, Chandra Mohan himself, arrested by the police without an arrest warrant, continues to remain behind bars for the third day. This is shocking and unprecedented in the history of the university.
Even more shocking has been the response of the University authorities. Far from standing up to the assault on the autonomy and jurisdiction of the University they have made common cause with the perpetrators of the assault. Instead of taking legal action against the mob and its leader, and file a FIR against them for disrupting examinations and infringing upon the autonomy of the University, they have put pressures on the faculty and the In-charge Dean, Prof Panikkar, to tender an apology for hurting public opinion. With the Faculty having refused to comply with this unprincipled diktat, the University has today in the late afternoon sealed the Office of the Department of History to which Prof. Panikkar belongs and in the late evening issued an order suspending him from the University. In tandem with this outrageous act, Mr. Niraj Jain has filed an application with the police seeking the inclusion of Prof. Panikkar as a co-accused in the FIR against Chandramohan. Both the students and the Faculty are now being threatened with dire consequences. There is now an acute danger to their safety and a drastic curtailment of their fundamental rights as citizens of a democratic country. Contrary to this an application filed by students of the Faculty against the offence committed by Mr. Niraj Jain to the police asking the latter to file an FIR against Mr. Jain for criminal trespass, intimidation, and unlawful disruption of the examination procedure of a reputed University has been ignored by the police. The result is that we have been left to the mercy of the mob. Day after day, hour after hour, we are being subjected to verbal attacks and threats of vengeance and destruction conveyed through the media. Given the stark and ignominious complicity of the University authorities, the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro-Vice Chancellor with the police and goons in this sordid drama we are left with no alternative but to appeal to you for intervention for the protection of our lives and security. We want you to intercede with the University administration, the Chancellor of the University and the Governor of Gujarat who is the Visitor to the University to ensure the same. Over and above this the examination being of the final year Masters has been left incomplete and seriously jeopardizes the future of the students.
Faculty and students, Faculty of Fine Arts
The M.S. University of Baroda