Tuesday, 15 May, 2007

Protest Demonstration agains events in Baroda: From Lalit Batra

Via: Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Dear All,

(apologies for cross posting on Vikalp, Commons Law, Reader List and CAC

I have recieved a mail from Lalit Batra, about a protest demonstration
against Chandramohan's (the MSU Baroda art student) and the closure of
exhibitions at the faculty of fine arts, MSU Baroda, and the suspension
of faculty (Shivji Pannickar) planned for tomorrow, 12th of May, at 3
p.m. at Gujarat Bhawan, Chanakya Puri, Near Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi.

Anyone wanting to contact Lalit Batra about this (or for more
information can call Lalit at 9899091413)

I am pasting the message from members of the faculty (Bina Sriniviasand
and Shivji Panickkar) that Lalit circulated below. Although everyone on
this list is by now familiar with this story, this notice does have
details of the sections of the penal code under which Chandramohan is
being charged - Sections 153A and 114, along with Section 295. I would
urge everyone to pay attention especially to the wonderful alliance
between VHP activists and Christian priests in Gujarat, against the
freedom of expression of a student.

Further, here are some details about the relevant sections:

Section 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of
religion, race etc, commiting acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public

According to the section whoever by words or expression promotes enmity
between different groups of the country on the grounds of religion,
race, place of birth, residence, language, or any such grounds or
commits an act which is prejudicial to the harmony of he public is
culpable under the section with imprisonment which may extend to three
years with or without fine. Further, when the offence is committed on
any religious place or any place worship the imprisonment can extend to
5 years with or without fine. The offence is non-bailable and even
cognizable (after 1898) ie. Police can arrest a person under the section
without warrant.

Section 295: Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult
the religion of any class

Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object
held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby
insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge
that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage
or defilement as a insult to their religion, shall be punished with
imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two
years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage
religious feelings

Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or
any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs 295A.
Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or
any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the
religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either
spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or
otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious
beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either
description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or
with both.

Section 114 is about abetment and presence when any crime is being

As a close reading of these sections would suggest, the problem lies not
only with the act, but also with the idea of intention.

The problem is, Chandramohan's lawyers can at best argue that his
actions are not evidence of his intentions. However, an artist is such
only because his actions have deliberation. Thus, to save Chandramohan
the person from a prison sentence, his lawyers might have to jettison
Chandramohan's identity as an artist. Such an argument, given the
circumstances that the images in question were made for an exam of the
fine arts department, may be impossible, or at the very least, difficult
to sustain,

The reason that distinguishes between the scrawls made by a chimpanzee
and an abstract expressionist has to do with the idea of intention. To
protect Chandramohan's act as an instance of un0 malicious behavious, it
has to be freed from the matrix of artistic intention. We cannot really
quarrel about the purport of the intention, because the onus of proving
hurt, has to do not with the hurter, but with the hurtee.

Hurt, is a subjective feeling, and as long as the hurt say that they
feel their pain, we are in no position to debate whether their pain or
humiliation is real or imagined. There cannot, in fact be, imagined or
feigned pain, because a court is in no position to measure the intensity
of feeling on any given issue. Thus when a person says that their
religious sensibilities are hurt, a court has to listen, (if the injury
to sensibilities is mentioned as a cause of harm). Chandramohan cannot
say that he intended to cause pain. He can only say that he intended to
cause meaning to be read into his actions. If someone says that they
read meaning in his actions in a manner that caused them pain, there is
very little that Chandramohan or his lawyers can say in defence against
such a charge

The only thing that can be debated is the question of whether or not
there was 'intention'in the first place. As an artist, Chandramohan
cannot run away from intention.

Therefore the only recourse that anyone wishing to protect the freedom
of speech in this case is to subject the law itself to criticism, not to
speculate about whether it's application in this case is an instance of
its misreading.

This means arguing for a straightforward assault on sections 153 and
295. The only way that an artist or a writer's freedom of speech can be
protected against religious zealots is through a complete and total
repeal of sections 153 and 295.

Having said that, arguing for these provisions to be struck down also
means accepting the right of the Hindutva forces to insult and (through
speech acts, signs, and visual representations) humiliate and attack
people of other religions and convictions.

I have no problem with that, but many who will rightly condemn the
freedom of Chandramohan to act as he has done, will also call for bans
on the 'hate speech' of those who have moved the machinery of law and
order against him.

Let it be understood that to do that will only invite further assaults
on the freedom of art students like Chandramohan in the future.
Meanwhile, I would urge everyone to attend as many meetings and
protests, as possible on this issue, and make people aware of the
draconian nature of sections 153 and 295.




Mr Owl said...

Agree, it will be a good thing if the people are aware of the sections as u said cause Chandramohan isn't the first artist to face such charges...

simba said...


Once a reputed centre of tertiary education with countless number of alumni from all faculties strewn across the world, is now a pariah. It is on the verge of being disowned not only by the UGC, but shunned by past students and teachers who are shocked and shamed at the latest debacle unfolding globally, unfortunately for university administrators, across the internet. It is bad enough to witness the academic demise of one’s alma mater across the last two decades, but watching political fanaticism mocking the very tenets of democracy, of which all Indians are supposedly proud of, is positively blood curdling.

The university is an institution, which needs to be properly administered and protected by those empowered to do so, including the Vice Chancellor, Syndicate/Senate Members, etc. Instead we are witnessing a debacle where the highest authority turns on his institute, sanctioning the violation of free expression and education on the flimsy excuse of immorality, that too in a land steeped and proud of its heritage such as Khajurao, Kama Sutra and the likes. Vibrant Gujarat indeed!!! The Mahatma and Sardar Patel would most certainly cringe wherever they in their heavenly abodes. The question begs to be asked whether the institute should shelter and tolerate these people. Therein lies the root of evil that has been plaguing MSU over the last few decades. Instead of a focus on academic excellence, mediocrity in all spheres has ruled the roost. Academic excellence dipped, national grants disappeared, dependence on the state government increased, thus allowing any ruling party to exert extraordinary influence on the university’s governance, including the appointment of vice chancellors of their choice, irrespective of their credentials and standing, and most importantly their ability to enhance the organisation’s stature. We have a situation where syndicate/senate members are either political stooges or have been muzzled to rubber-stamp critical decisions that could undermine the university’s credibility and standing. There used to be a time when academic luminaries were syndicate/senate members, but not any more, as political inclination is a preferable prerequisite.

More disturbing is the rise in religious political fanaticism in what should be the tranquil surroundings of a flourishing university. Ishwar, Allah, Ram, does it really matter where education is concerned. One suspects that there is more to just immorality than meets the eye about the current fracas.

Students, teachers, deans of faculties, syndicate/senate members, the PVC and VC are all party for the above debacle which represents some of the murkiest depths an educational organization can dip to. MSU is now a laughing stock. One used to take pride in being a MSU degree holder. Not any more, thanks to a crescendo of mediocrity, breeding acceptance of all that is anathema to true democracy, freedom of expression and education. The manner in which this incident has unfolded reminds us of the Taleban in Afghanistan. Are we fostering and encouraging our own “talebans’ who run amuck protecting the society’s ‘morals’, while flagrantly thumbing their noses at fundamental societal rights and law? If this is so, are we encouraging a ‘superior race’ (shades of Nazism) who are irreproachable and not answerable to common law and societal norms.

Citizens of Baroda, students and teachers of MSU, show some spine and courage and stand up for all that is fair, truthful, legal and most importantly, what is necessary to reverse this downward vortex of destruction the organization is speeding through. March through the streets, express your feelings to the VC, syndicate/senate members, harangue the State Education Minister and Chief Minister, clog the internet and daily press. Remember, state elections are approaching and in 1974, MSU students were at the forefront of overthrowing the then state government. We are a proud state and have been prosperous too, but this needs to be bolstered by a robust educational system. While MSU is in the news, other universities in Gujarat will certainly have their own horror stories to tell. Mediocrity is like a delicate exotic fruit, one does pay dearly for scarcity. Why should Gujarat put up with mediocrity, as it breeds all sorts of evils.

NM said...

CBC Radio Canada has contacted me for Chandramohan's contact info, as they would like to interview him. I'm a bangalore based freelance writer contributing to Times of India and Matters of Art. Could you mail me the info asap at nalinidotindianartatgmaildotcom.

My blog is Indian Art (www.indianartscene.blogspot.com)

Cheng_van said...

In reply to simba
Don't worry. Your alma mater is in transformation throes. It is on its way to become a Hindu University. A novel by O V Vijayan, The Saga of Dharmapuri begins with the description of copraphilia of the citizens of Dharmapuri. They queue up in devotion to get their share of the sacred shit of the king of Dharmapuri. Gujarat is Dharmapuri.

Cheng_van said...

The Hindu, today, has an editorial on the incident.
Hurt sentiments and moral policing
It raises a highly relevant concern of lower courts being employed by scum of society to bully their targets.

devsan said...

Is the Gujarat police going to file FIRs against the sculptors of Khajuraho and Konark as well?

Max Babi said...

Simba has made very piercing comments, and anything else on this horrifying topic would pale in comparison.

This slow process of attrition has been going on since 1980's, and lately the scum of the society has established an easy modus operandi to go and disrupt proceedings be it a ghazal concert or beauty pagent or boys and girls dancing... one just needs a saffron headband and a stick in the hands. Culturally, this jhopadpatti anti-culture has been gaining ground for decades... their aim is to destroy the non-mediocre art and artist. The govt plays the role of a corrupt cop standing on the pavement and chewing tobacco amidst snickers.
Sad, sad, sad beyond words.
Gujarat will become another Bihar as far as culture goes... there is money in rabble-rousing.

kwachilka said...

No, they are going to clothe all those nudity in saffron Kaupina!

Charles Stroh said...

While recent events at MS University in Baroda are reprehensible, they also are reassuring. With so many artists in India becoming financially successful and so many young artists seeking some of that recognition, it is a good reminder to all of us that art can still have power. It is easy to be seduced by recognition and success, but we would all do well to remind ourselves that art should be more than a meal ticket.
Thank you. Charles Stroh . Western Michigan University . USA