A Brief Report on the Recent Incidences At the MSU, Baroda
09May 2007 – 11 May 2007
The Maharaja Sayajirao Universiy of Baroda is amongst the top Universities in the country with very high global repute. The Faculty of Fine Arts is amongst its very best Faculties and is one of the top ranking institutions world-wide in the field of Fine Arts.
University Claim: On 9 May 2007, the citizens of Vadodara lodged their strong protest at the Faculty of Fine Arts, of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. The protest was against an exhibition displaying a number of artworks deeply hurting the sentiments of Faith and decency of the society at large.
Response: The University claims that it took all its actions based on a strong protest that the ‘citizens of Vadodara’ had lodged. These so-called citizens have not been identified by the University authorities at any point. Where were their protests lodged? If with the University, why did the University authorities not communicate this to the authorities at the Faculty of Fine Arts? If not, the question is why were the University authorities not present when serious police action was being undertaken and examinations at the Faculty were being disrupted by these ‘citizens’. This was in spite of repeated phone calls made by the then i/c Dean. He was helplessly trying to apprise the University authorities of the situation when these so called ‘citizens’ were abusing staff and students of the Faculty, pushing them and manhandling the student.
University Claim: It is noteworthy that during his telephonic conversation with the Vice Chancellor over this incidence of protest, the then in-charge Dean Professor S. K. Panniker (who is currently suspended from the University Services) also termed these works of art as “objectionable”.
Response: This statement is misleading. Professor Shivaji K. Panikkar said that the issue is not whether the art work is objectionable or not; rather the issue is about a student of the University being arrested on the basis of his examination work without prior information given to the University or Faculty authorities. There are legitimate ways to lodge one’s objections and if it is overlooked by the concerned authorities (University/ Faculty) only then the question of lodging a complaint to the police or making a protest arises. Further, it is a shame that a person of a Vice Chancellor’s stature should try to misrepresent a part of the remark made over a telephonic conversation and try implicate or even insinuate that Professor Shivaji K Panikkar is also among those who found the art works “objectionable”.
University Claim: The protest was verbal and peaceful. The citizens had come to the Faculty of Fine Arts having read a news item in the Times of India dated 07 May 2007 and Gujarati daily Sandes dated 09 May 2007. These news items mentioned that the Works of Art created by the students of the Faculty as a part of their Annual Examination were open for public display on the 9th May 2007. Such public display has been a tradition. In fact, one of the teachers of the Faculty had sent messages through SMS inviting people to the display at the Faculty of Fine Arts. Thus, the claim in the media that the display was not open for public is untrue.
Response: Why are the University authorities saying that the display of examination work by students at the Faculty is a public exhibition? It is actually curious that the University authorities are now suddenly trying to designate the long standing examination procedures as a public exhibition. In its long history, the practical examination of the students in the Faculty has always culminated in a presentation of art works through display procedures. It is not an organized public exhibition. The Press information about the presentation of works was not issued by the Faculty/University. There are no invitations, no inauguration or any press note.
How does a private SMS which could be sent by people in their private capacity constitute evidence that the presentation of works at the Faculty of Fine Arts was a ‘public exhibition’?
University Claim: These citizens noticed that some of the works of Art displayed at the Faculty were highly deplorable.
One of the so-called work of Art was a huge Christian Cross where Lord Jesus Christ was shown with his penis out on the Cross, his palms and feet hanging from the two sides and the bottom of the Cross, respectively. Semen was shown as dropping out of his penis into a real toilet commode placed beneath the Cross. The toilet contained fishes.
Another very large sized painting showed a woman in nude posture. A baby was shown as attempting to come out of the vagina of the women. The picture depicted the women trying to attack the baby with a Trishul. The painting had the words “DURGA MATA” written at the bottom.
Similarly Lord Shiva and Lord Visnhu were also depicted in a highly derogatory manner in other so-called works of Art.
Response: The above descriptions of the works are repugnant and visually illiterate. It proves that a naïve verbal description of a work of art is inadequate to its understanding. It is appalling that the University authorities would indulge in such paraphrasing of works of art and would offer such crude and obscene readings of the images concerned. Regarding the image of a suffering Jesus on the Cross, the work is not figurative but symbolic. It can be interpreted to mean several things: one among them could be that the suffering of Christ on the cross has led his body to a condition of utter dissolution, turning Him into a fleshless state symbolized by water (fluids of the body). As His body drains into a receptacle (a modern commode) it takes its form as new life of elementary creatures (fish). In fact, the theme of water flowing out from the body of Christ after his crucifixion by those who disapproved of his ideas is mentioned in the Bible and is a revered part of the story that is read out in churches all over the world at the remembrance of his death that takes place each year on Good Friday. Also the themes of suffering, sacrifice and regeneration are key themes in most world philosophies and religions. Nothing could be more atrocious than the reading made by the University authorities of the water dripping from the cross as ‘semen’.
In the context of the second work described by the University authorities, it might be pertinent to note that images of naked birth-giving goddesses are entirely part of Indian religious iconography (Ref: Gopinatha Rao, Hindu Iconography; 3 vols). Here, in this painting, the courageous Goddess Durga is enacting the crime of foeticide (a practice routinely followed in patriarchal societies) in order to call attention to the horror and violence of the act that amounts to murder in the very womb. The overwhelming motif underwriting this piece of work is that of birth and death. Here the Devi is seen giving birth not to a baby child as the untrained eyes of the University authorities claim but she is actually giving birth to a fully grown man and is attempting to kill him in the process. The anger of the goddess is obviously directed against men as she safeguards the processes of fertility. We know that the killing of the girl child has become a rampant practice in our time to an extent that we are daily confronted with governmental campaigns to ‘save the girl child’. It is therefore quite possible to locate these artworks in the conditions of our present times. There are innumerable instances where, when confronted with the crisis in a society, artists have often recalled traditional iconographic representations to offer critiques of evil practices in their present society.
In the iconographical vocabulary of Indian art traditions, the Durga image is available in multiple forms, ranging from the benign to more wild forms. It is just that our eyes are used to seeing the pleasant forms of the goddess. The Vice Chancellor’s reading shows that there is a massive loss of memory of her wilder forms. In fact, in our religious literatures such as the Devi Mahatmya, Chandi Purana and Shiva Purana, the Goddess Durga is described in most ferocious terms, often without clothes, killing demons, drinking their blood and wearing the heads of the demons as garlands. There is a enormous archive of visual as well as textual material representing the sexual union of Shiva and Shakti. Apart from these widely known brahminical forms of Durga, there are numerous forms of the Goddess in various names and forms in folk and tribal traditions where the Goddess is worshiped in her most fierce form. The graphic work by the student draws its visual vocabulary from such a rich repertoire of visual and textual traditions and practices in India. It draws elements from a long tradition of Durga iconographies in order to express the rage of the mother goddess over all who in our time commit the heinous crime of female foeticide.
Here, we are not arguing that the readings that we offer are the only possible readings. We only want to point out that works of art by virtue of their special character allow multiple interpretations and is a matter for discussion. Why are the University authorities quick to endorse the reading of these art works as proposed by right wing ideologues? If these are the citizens on whose behalf the University takes a stand, what about all the citizens who would like to see alternative readings of these art works? The University should be a place allowing for contestation and debates over meaning and frameworks of seeing.
University claim: The media had already arrived by this time and were witnessing and recording / photographing the events that followed.
Response: The speed with which the police and the media arrived just after Mr. Niraj Jain’s intrusion into the display site shows that the whole incident was well orchestrated and preplanned to get maximum political mileage out of such an unfortunate act. In fact, the media was called by Niraj Jain and his associates.
University Claim: When the group of citizens led by Mr. Niraj Jain, as per his letter, protested and requested the student who had created these so-called works of Art to remove these objectionable works of Art from public display, the student refused to do so.
Response: There was no question of any request or legitimate protest; they came with the police and media, without Faculty or University permission and disrupted examination proceedings for cheap political mileage. They stormed into the examination hall shouting slogans, using abusive language and pushed and pulled the students around. They manhandled Mr. Chandramohan and his friend who was helping him in the display process. With the help of police, both of them were taken away. They were then detained in police custody. Later, due to strong student protest they released the other boy (Mr. Venkat Rao of Andhra Pradesh). These events have been extensively covered by both local and national media.
University Claim: Again the group of citizens requested Professor Panniker, the then in-charge Dean of the Faculty to intervene and get those objectionable works of art removed from public display. Professor Panniker refused to do so.
Response: Mr. Niraj Jain and associates did not ‘request’ Professor Shivaji Panikkar, to take down the work; rather they threatened and abused him and other staff members with dire consequences. This can be corroborated by media footage which clearly shows Professor Shivaji Panikkar being pushed around by Niraj Jain. They did not give Professor Shivaji Panikkar a chance to inquire into the matter or consult with the Head of the Graphics Department or any other Faculty member. All this happened after the student was whisked away by the police at the behest of Mr. Niraj Jain.
University Claim: The protest was entirely peaceful and verbal. No damage was caused to the property of the University. No injury whatsoever was caused to any person.
Response: The protest by Niraj Jain was neither peaceful nor merely verbal. Even a cursory look at the media coverage and footage would prove the contrary. The question is how the University authorities can make the blatant claim that the so called protest was ‘entirely’ peaceful and verbal when an enquiry into the incident is pending and the report awaited. We are therefore compelled to conclude from such declarations that the University authorities have already exonerated Mr. Niraj Jain and his associates thus preempting the enquiry in their favor.
University Claim: On the request of the then in-charge Dean, the University officials arranged for police reinforcement with a request to provide necessary protection. The police promptly arrived at the venue.
Response: This is incorrect chronology. The police had already arrested student Chandramohan by then. During this arrest, the police neither took permission from authorities at the Faculty or at the main University. Professor Shivaji Pannikar had kept the University authorities informed of the developments telephonically, and the decision to call in the police was taken by the University authorities, as they claim. Even though the Dean had informed the Vice Chancellor and other authorities of the events taking place on campus, no help was forthcoming from their side. None of the higher authorities visited the Faculty. The University authorities (i/c Registrar MM Beedkar) came to the Faculty 5 hours after the incident had taken place, only to oversee the sealing process of the ‘objectionable’ art works. The University authorities had been apprised of this by the i/c Dean. During all this time, Mr. Niraj Jain was playing a terror game with the traumatized faculty staff and student fraternity without any hindrance. There was no attempt by the University authorities to protect staff and students from the offensive language and violent behavior of Mr. Niraj Jain and associates.
University Claim: After a very long and consistent persuasion, those objectionable works of art were removed and placed in a room, which was locked and sealed by the police on the basis of a complaint filed by Mr. Niraj Jain and in concurrence with the provision of relevant Law.
Response: The police ACP, T. R. Parmar ordered that the offending five works be taken down and sealed. This was communicated to the Vice Chancellor. Indeed, there were discussions between the police and the i/c Dean, but this concerned the modalities of sealing and the safety of the works. Even after the police arrived and ordered the removal of the ‘offensive’ pictures Niraj Jain and his associates roamed freely in the campus threatening staff and students alike threatening to tear down the works and vandalize them. The in-charge Registrar, Mr. Beedekar arrived only towards the end of the sealing process.
University Claim: None of the so-called works of art was damaged in any manner.
Response: The works have been dismantled from frames and roughly rolled.
University Claim: On the basis of a police complaint filed by Shri Niraj Jain in his individual capacity as a citizen, the student – Mr. Chandra Mohan, who had created those objectionable works of Art was arrested by police under relevant legal provisions. The University authorities deputed an official to provide all the possible help to the student.
Response: Police did not ask permission to enter the campus from either Faculty or University authorities. As PVC had informed Faculty members on an earlier occasion, even police cannot enter the University campus without permission. This violation of rules by the police as well as the consistent refusal of the University authorities to file FIR against Niraj Jain for unlawful entry and disruption of examinations suggests collusion. With regard to the student, NO help whatsoever has been provided to him by the University. University Claim: Subsequently, the University received a high number of representations and memoranda from several organizations, groups, individuals of high repute and common people from a cross section of society strongly urging the University officials to intervene and disallow the exhibition of such works of art that deeply hurt and offend the sentiments of Faith of various communities.
Response: If so, why didn’t the University authorities communicate this to the Faculty and ask for a report which is the prescribed procedure? It may also be noted that prior to the unlawful intrusion into the university premise and the disruption of the smooth functioning of the examination by Mr. Niraj Jain and his violent associates, Professor Shivaji Panikkar who was the i/c Dean had no inkling about complaints made about any part of the examination display. If the authorities were in possession of such information, earlier to the i/c Dean as it has been clearly stated in the report, not informing the Dean is a criminal negligence on the part of the University authorities.
University Claim: Thus, with a view to respect the sentiments of Faith of very large communities, as well as honoring the University’s social sensitivity and responsibility, the University officials including the Pro-Vice Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor requested Professor S. K. Panniker, the then in-charge Dean of the Faculty several times to wind-up the exhibition.
Response: There was no need to give a verbal order to close down the examination display, [the ‘exhibition’ according to University authorities]. It was already closed down by the students themselves who were now busy writing complaints and pleas to the police and university authorities. Since Niraj Jain had arrived with the media who had covered the entire episode, news had spread across Baroda and the country. There were concerned calls from all over the country but not a word of concern by the University about the students who were being terrorized by the goons who the VC calls respectable citizens.
University Claim: Since the exhibition had already hurt the sentiments of Faith of very large societies, the then in-charge Dean of the Faculty was also requested to issue a statement expressing at least regret and apology over such unintentional consequence of the exhibition. During such meetings of the Pro-Vice Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor with Professor Panniker, the then in-charge Dean, his colleagues were also present.
Response: The i/c Dean was called to the University office the next Day (10 May) where he was asked to tender a public apology. This was discussed in a staff student meeting at the Faculty. There was complete consensus that any public apology offered without active support to the Faculty and concrete actions against the intruders by the University authorities would be equivalent to abandoning the interests of students and giving tacit encouragement to vandalism inside the University campus. Therefore, it was decided that all legal help should be provided to Chandramohan and that an FIR be lodged against Mr. Niraj Jain. A memorandum to this effect was submitted to the University authorities.
Significantly the VC’s account of the ‘Truth’ of the incidents at Faculty of Fine Arts makes no mention of the memorandum signed by all the staff members of the Faculty. Moreover, the manner in which these decisions were taken shows that the i/c Dean, far from acting in an arbitrary manner, took all his actions in consultation with staff and students of the Faculty, and in their support.
It is very pertinent to note that the i/c Dean had in fact expressed, along with other staff and students regret for inadvertent and unintentional hurt caused to any member of public. This expression was carried in the memorandum given by the Faculty members to the University. Why has the VC consistently refused to look into the legitimate demands of the Faculty, even though the examinations were disrupted by the entry of Niraj Jain and associates?
University Claim: The then Faculty in-charge Dean, unfortunately, did not heed these requests. Regrettably, adding fuel to the fire, he made such offending public statements, which further hurt and flared up the common citizens’ feelings demanding strong action. In one such statements printed by the media, for instance, Professor Panniker, the then in-charge Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, is quoted as saying that the Faculty of Fine Arts is like his personal bedroom and therefore, he is free to do whatever he desires there! Thus, the protest of the citizens of the city grew manifolds. Consequently, there was a huge public outcry from a cross section of society including the students of the University, demanding strong action in the matter.
Response: Professor Shivaji Panikkar’s statement to the media has been misquoted and further distorted by the VC. Professor Shivaji Panikkar told the media that the University is like a private space and that the general public cannot enter and comment on examination work; he used a metaphor to suggest that such an act by the ‘public’ is like barging into a private bedroom. It is very important to remember that the i/c Dean in consultation with his staff members had, in fact, issued a press statement expressing regret for inadvertent and unintentional hurt caused to any member of public. The press statement issued by the Faculty on 10th May 2007 says: “In the unfortunate circumstances of any published image, seen out of context, has caused hurt to anybody, it is regretted”
University Claim: As if this was not enough, in sheer defiance of the University officials requests and even executive orders, on 11th May 2007, once again, the then in-charge Dean, organized an exhibition in the evening displaying nude paintings in the name of an Indian culture!
Response: Professor Shivaji Panikkar did not organize any exhibition. The exhibition on Indian Tradition was organized by the students on their own initiative. It was a civilized and silent protest against the arrest of their fellow student, disruption of examination process by outside forces, their continuing presence in the faculty premises and the apathy of University authorities. By then, Chandramohan had been in jail for 3 days and students were feeling helpless. The exhibition was put together to educate the general public and the press about the long tradition of the nude present in Indian culture.
The exhibition was more of an illustration from works that students are supposed to study and be familiar with through their course work. These were images copied (Xeroxed) from scholarly books on Hindu sacred art along with the European traditions, drawn from academic curriculum of the Art History Department and used daily to teach the iconography and aesthetics of traditional Indian art. These cannot be termed as a display of “nude paintings”. Here, it is also important to note that far from saying he would arbitrarily refuse to follow authorities, the i/c Dean said that he need not ask for permission from the VC to support a peaceful illustrative exhibition mounted by the students drawing on artworks which are an integral part of their Art Historical curriculum that is approved by Board of Studies and the University Syndicate. This is deliberate distortion of facts by the University authorities.
University Claim: Since this unwarranted act of the then in-charge Dean could have sparked large-scale social disharmony and caused disruption, the University Authority deputed two Deputy Registrars and one Assistant Registrar for requesting the in-charge Dean Prof. Panniker, for not organizing the said exhibition. When these officials reached the Faculty and spoke to the then in-charge Dean, he refused point blank to stop the display and reacted that he was not required to take permission of anybody including University Authority for doing anything in the Faculty.
Upon this, the Authority deputed Registrar-in-charge with a written order directing the in-charge Dean to close the display. After acknowledging the letter of the Registrar-in-charge after a lot of dilly-dallying, Prof. Panniker adamantly continued on his stand of not closing the display and said he would keep the display open throughout the night and disobey the University authority’s lawful orders.
In spite of such disobedient behaviour of the then in-charge Dean, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor S. M. Joshi, along with the Senate and Syndicate members and leading citizens of the city went personally to the Faculty premises and repeatedly requested the in-charge Dean to close the display. Even then, the then in-charge Dean remained adamant and refused to heed the requests / orders of the Pro-Vice Chancellor.
Response: The report has given a long account of repeated orders and requests that were not ‘obeyed’. We would like to know since when did the verbal orders become official documents in this University. This, in a University where even the pettiest of official work is done through writing, through proper channel and procedures! That apart, we must consider the reasons for the i/c Dean’s action: The argument put forward by the Dean was that the students had sought the help of the University authorities a number of times. Since students felt that there was no help coming from the University authorities, the Dean was in no position to order the students to stop the exhibition. The students were already feeling morally oppressed and any order to stop the exhibition at that point would have led to a flashpoint in the Faculty. The Dean reiterated that he would stand by the students and staff. The authorities then sealed the exhibition and the Regional Documentation Center.
Why was the i/c Dean not asked for an explanation before he was unilaterally suspended? Why has the University acted in such unseemly haste to suspend him barely 2 hours after the sealing up of the Regional Documentation Centre and before Professor Shivaji Panikkar could even consider tendering his resignation as Dean? Why were there no attempts to talk to the students or staff? Why have the University authorities in a move that has no parallel in contemporary India sealed the documentation center at the Faculty? The fact that students and staff have stood behind Professor Shivaji Panikkar is an index of the loyalty and trust that he commands in the Faculty. This is evident in the mass CL taken by ALL the staff members and from the memorandum that they submitted in full support to the i/c Dean and the student protests over the last few days.
University Claim: The Faculty of Fine Arts is an integral part of the prestigious The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, known for its substantial contribution in placing Gujarat & Baroda on international cultural scene, and as such cannot be left solely on the whims & wishes of any one individual.
Response: It is very gracious of the report to acknowledge the importance of the Faculty of Fine Arts. It surely cannot be left solely on the whims and wishes of any one individual. But the question is can the running of such a prestigious Faculty be left to the hostile and punitive University authorities?
University Claim: In the event of the adamant refusal of the then in-charge Dean to heed the repeated requests from the University officials and his blatant refusal to obey lawful orders of the University officials and that too in such grave matter of hurting the sentiments of decency and societal harmony, the University had no other option but to suspend the in-charge Dean, Prof. S. K. Panniker from the University services for three months with immediate effect under the rules of the University.
Response: The University has paid no attention to the legitimate grievances of the Faculty of Fine Arts, nor has given the authorities in the Faculty a chance to explain the situation, nor have spoken to the students on this matter. On the other hand it has been overenthusiastic in supporting the allegations and interpretations of Niraj Jain and associates over that of Faculty members. University authorities have completely refused to file FIR against Niraj Jain for unlawful entry and disruption of examinations. The University has not taken any steps to provide legal help to Chandramohan the student. Rather it has suspended the i/c Dean Professor Shivaji Panikkar for taking steps to protect the Faculty of Fine Arts and to redress the grievances of its students. This suggests collusion by the University with Niraj Jain and associates in this shameful episode.
University Claim: The University authority has constituted a committee headed by Professor Syed Maswood, Dean Faculty of Law, with clear terms of reference for investigating entire matter in detail, identify all person/s responsible for this incidence, and recommend appropriate action under rules of the University.
Response: The Chancellor of the University has expressed concern at the nature of the Committee constituted by the Vice Chancellor to probe the issue. (TOI, May 19, 2007) Reports say that “The committee’s composition has come under severe criticism from several quarters as many believe that the members would go by the administrations view regarding the entire episode.” (TOI, May 19, 2007)
University Claim: The Chancellor of the University, Her Excellency Dr. Mrunalini Devi Puar, has publicly condemned such exhibition depicting divine personalities in derogatory manner.
Response: The invocation of the Chancellor’s remarks is only partial. In fact, from the beginning she has expressed concern over the intrusion of outside forces in the University affairs. Recently, she has also expressed her distress over the composition of the Committee instituted by the University to enquire into the incidence leading to the suspension of the i/c Dean Professor Shivaji K Panikkar.
In addition to a very large number of social organizations and common people, the leading citizens including Maharaja Ranjitsingh Gaekwad, Padmashri Sitanshu Mehta, Renowned Painter Shri Gulam Mohmmed Sheikh, Professor Dhruv Mistry, renowned Sculptor, Noted Poet Madhav Ramanuj and several distinguished personalities have issued public statements condemning the exhibition of objectionable works of Art that caused deep hurt to the sentiments of Faith of a very large society.
Response: The truth is that there has been widespread condemnation of the attack on the artist and the i/c Dean from all over the country. While many distinguished personalities have sought to understand the turn of events in the Faculty of Fine Arts, their remarks on the issue cannot be construed as a ‘condemnation’. For example, we know for a fact that Professor Gulammohammed Sheikh by no means expressed condemnation but rather supported the student and the i/c Dean as well as the courageous stand of the Faculty of Fine Arts. Even Padmashri Sitanshu Mehta has condemned the attack on art works and has expressed his concern over the nature of protest. In fact, the remarks made by these distinguished personalities call for debates around issues of art and sentiments of faith.
A University should be a place providing for critical thinking around issues concerning civil society and curricular freedom and the autonomy of educational institutions. In fact, the significant support, received by Professor Shivaji Panikkar has to be seen in the light of his defense of the University as a critical space where thought and ideas are nourished and nurtured. Debates on works of art in a free manner are essential to a critical democratic culture and the function that art performs within it. We would like to reiterate this point especially in the context of a long tradition of artistic and academic integrity at the Faculty. Instead, the University authorities have allowed the University space to be held hostage by a handful of local politicians who do not have any respect for civilized debate and concern for the reputation of the University.
Steps Taken to Restore Normalcy
University Claim: 01. The Security, particularly in the Faculty of Fine Arts, has been enhanced right from 09 May 2007. The Security personnel are ensuring that only those students and Members of the University fraternity are allowed entry inside the Faculty Campus who hold valid identity card or authentic identity document. Due care is also taken not to put genuine visitors to any inconvenience. The campus is totally peaceful.
Response: This claim of the University is absolutely misleading and is not based on any factual evidence. About 50 people came inside the Faculty premises on 13 May and tried to disrupt the silent protest-sit-in-dharna by the students and staff members of the Faculty with provocative slogans. Moreover the media was always allowed into the campus. It was allowed every day and has been reported by all the news media. The security measures in fact came into force only on the 14th of May when eminent citizens, alumni of the Faculty and artists from across the country converged to show their solidarity. The so called security measures were only part of attempts to put hurdles to a peaceful convergence of concerned citizens from all walks of life.
University Claim: 02. The Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Professor Deepak Kannal is on leave and is currently in the U.S.A. on an academic assignment. He has been requested to pre-pone his return to India and is likely to resume his duties at the earliest possible.
Response: It is such an irony that Professor Deepak Kannal, Dean of the Faculty, who is on an academic assignment in the US has now been asked to cut short his schedule to clean up the mess that the University authorities have created at the Faculty of Fine Arts.
University Claim: 03. Since during the absence of the regular Dean, none of the senior members of the Faculty was willing to take the charge of the Faculty, Professor G. C. Maheshwari, Dean Fculty of Management Studies has been appointed as the Officer on Special Duty in-charge of the Faculty of Fine Arts till the Dean Professor Deepak Kannal resumes his duties.
Response: The very fact that no senior Faculty members were willing to take charge of the Faculty shows the unity among the staff members of the Faculty of Fine Arts and their faith in Professor Shivaji Panikkar and his rightful actions. The Faculty stood by Professor Shivaji Panikkar in all his actions, even at the time when i/c Registrar Mr. Beedkar came with a written order from the University Authorities to close down the exhibition of Indian Traditions, it was not just Professor Shivaji Panikkar but all the Staff Members signed and received the order to show that the decision about the exhibition was not just a whimsical act of any one individual but a careful decision taken by the staff collective considering the nature and the manner of the organized illustrative exhibition.
University Claim: 04. The results of the examinations of the Department of Museology, one of the six departments of the Faculty of Fine Arts, is declared. All the possible steps are being taken as to the conduct of the examination and the declaration of the results at the earliest possible.
Response: The Museology Department has a separate Academic Council and has less than seven students for their MA level Examination. All the other five Departments of Faculty of Fine Arts have a single Board of Studies and all the students in these Departments have Art History and Aesthetics as a compulsory paper for the Degree Program. The unfortunate action taken by the University Authorities to seal this Department has led to the further disruption of examination procedures. The entire examination papers of students are stuck inside the Department. Besides, Professor Shivaji K. Panikkar teaches and evaluates maximum number of papers for MA level students and as the Head of the Department he oversees the examination/evaluation of papers. His suspension from the post of i/c Dean and banning of his entry into the University premises has stalled the evaluation work. Some papers come under specialized category and only a person of Prof. Panikkar’s expertise and experience can evaluate them. Till today the University has hardly taken any measure to resolve the deadlock.
University Claim: 05. A committee of the following members is constituted on 12 May 2007 to investigate about:
(i) the incidence that occurred in the Faculty of Fine Arts on 09 May 2007 and subsequent developments related to it, and
(ii) the role, conduct and behaviour of Professor S. K. Panikkar, the then in-charge Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts with regard to the above referred incidence and frame charges against him.
01. Professor Syed Maswood, Dean, Faculty of Law, Convener
02. Dr. Prakash Shah, (M.D.), Syndicate Member, Member
03. Shri Mukundbhai Shah, Syndicate Member Member
04. Advocate Shri Rajendra Trivedi, Senate Member Member
The Convener is authorized to co-opt any other member(s) or invite artists for consultation.
The Committee is requested to submit its report at the earliest possible.
The Terms of Reference of the Committee will be as follows:
01 To ascertain the facts and evidences about the incidence that occurred in the Faculty of Fine Arts on 09 May 2007 and subsequent developments related to it.
02 To examine the role, conduct and behaviour of Professor S. K. Panikker, In-Charge Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts with regard to the above referred incidence.
03 To identify person(s) responsible for the incidence and subsequent developments related to it, and recommend appropriate action(s) with regard to those responsible.
Response: The nature of the Committee and the political affiliations of most of the Committee members are already known to the public through media reports. It exposes the intention of the University authorities and raises serious doubts about the inquiry procedures and the possible outcome. The Faculty of Fine Arts has a long and illustrious history and has alumni which is known world over. An inquiry into the incidence which involves art works does not have a permanent member who comes from a Fine Arts background. The Honorable Chancellor Mrunalinidevi Puar has also publicly expressed her dismay over the legitimacy and credibility of the Inquiry Committee (TOI, 19th May 2007, Front Page).
Administration of a university involves the application of rules and regulations that are crucial to the everyday functioning of the institution. In such a situation, it is of fundamental importance that the university practices its regulative function wisely and in a manner that keeps in view the customary practices of all its Faculties. The action of the administration riding roughshod over the Fine Arts Faculty's customary functioning is a clear instance of loss of administrative wisdom and failure of administrative competence. In such a situation, what needs to be judged is the whole set of actions and reactions, including the high-handedness of the Vice Chancellor and his administration. It is for this larger reason that the very act of the Vice Chancellor setting up an inquiry committee needs to be challenged.
All through his position paper, the Vice Chancellor has clearly endorsed all the sentiments and opinions of Mr Jain. He has already prejudged the matter even before hearing from the University’s own inquiry committee. The closed mindedness displayed by the Vice Chancellor and other University authorities forebodes the dismantling of academic and scientific values of careful and unbiased investigation. Their actions seem to have no respect for the democratic ideals of discussion and debate that have contributed to the rise of this university to its present status.
In the given situation, we demand that the inquiry be conducted on broader lines by an impartial national body. We also demand that the Vice Chancellor be disallowed from any further involvement in this issue.
ASSOCIATION OF ARTISTS, ACADEMICS AND CITIZENS FOR UNIVERSITY AUTONOMY (AAACUA)