Dear Prof. Shivaji Panikker,
We have not met but I was briefly a visitor to Barada College of Art earlier
this year in late January and informally undertook some tutorials with
students on the MFA programme. I was impressed by the high level of
dedication, skill and commitment by those students I spoke to (at the behest
Sri Vasuderan Akkitham, Head of Painting).
As a Senior Lecturer at Cardiff School of Art & Design, University of Wales
Institute, with a long history of teaching at undergraduate and post
graduate level I have visited many colleges internationally, including
several in India. Baroda enjoys a strong reputation in the UK and I know
your institution to have links with the Royal College of Art, where I have
also taught in the 1980s.
I was distressed to hear of the serious and highly disrupting intrusion upon
your examination assessments by elements who trespassed on your premisses
and interfered with your evaluation process by an external jury.
This is deeply damaging to the academic process which was not open to the
public and should, therefore an internal matter to the college alone. Public
exhibitions are a different matter, this was not the case.
Academic freedom is one of the central tenants of education, the ability to
exercise and develop ideas in an atmosphere free of divisive censorship and
carried out observing the responsibilities that come with the open
acquisition of knowledge at university level.
Controversy has a long and honourable history in the visual arts and many
famous and important artists have dealt with difficult and challenging
subject matter in the pursuit of ideas and truth. George Gros, Otto Dix and
Goya all produced work whose shocking observations about the nature of war
were controversial in their day. Many of the images in Francis Bacons work
were be considered offence at different times. Clearly since I have not
seen the work of Chandra Mohan and will not know the nature of the
religious offence taken by those who trespassed in your college, so I cannot
What I do find offensive however is highly disruptive and damaging
intrusion on your colleges academic life and the treatment of the student in
question. Your own suspension and the sealing and closing of the Dept of
Art History together with the apparent lack of support of the senior
college authorities towards its own staff and students must be a major major
concern to all those who value art education and issues concerning
Please accept my support in the defence of academic freedom as a crucial
principal, not knowing the exact circumstances but defending the autonomy
of a university such as your own to exercise its own judgement without
Artist, Gallery Director, Senior Lecturer. Cardiff UK