Saturday, 14 July, 2007

A perspective on the MSU events.

Friends, I'm taking the liberty to jot down some thoughts on the MSU
and Husain attacks in the recent past. As a veteran target of BJP/RSS
assaults and their hate propaganda machine beginning with the SAHMAT
'Hum Sab Ayodhya' exhibit fracas in August 1993, we did learn a few

We cannot clearly understand the ground realities of these assaults
without understanding the politics of the larger cultural agenda of
the Sangh Parivar. Husain was the perfect target for them for the last
12 years. He was Muslim, he was the most famous artist in India, his
vast range of subject matter included Hindu icons. It was very easy
for the Sangh to project distorted interpretations of his modernist
vocabulary. But I think we have to understand that these hate
campaigns are aimed primarily at rousing the Hindutva constituency
themselves. They usually occur when things are not going well for the
sangh politically…loosing electoral support etc. If, as a fallout, the
propaganda is successful in spreading their poison in the larger civil
society, all the better.

The assault on the Baroda department clarifies the broadening agenda
of the Sangh assault on the secular and liberal cultural space. It has
shifted beyond the 'Muslims'…Husain, Shabana, Amir Khan. The Sangh is
not interested in Shivji Pannikar, Chandramohan, their essays or their
art. They couldn't care less what happens to them. I think it's very
clear they are out to destroy the department, and eventually fill it
with their own appointees. The very source of all these 'liberal
secular' artists and scholars will be sliced off at the root. Witness
what has happened to institutions at the centre or the states when the
Sangh has been in control: The IGNCA in Delhi, Bharat Bhavan in
Bhopal. It should also be clearly understood that the Sangh works
extremely systematically. The Jain invasion of the review session was
not spontaneous and isolated. Within days, photocopies of
Chandramohan's images were in discussion at the BJP parliamentary
board meeting in Delhi, Arun Jaitley was writing on them in the
newspapers, Sushma Swaraj was hosting an official BJP symposium on
'Obscene Art'. The idea that a 'discussion' should be initiated with
the BJP or Maneka Gandhi or Advani is very naïve. We should also
realise this is agenda not restricted to Gujarat alone.

The entire arts community is a target. We are all at risk as it is
open season now. While liberal voices are rightly raised in protest,
we should also realise these mean nothing to the Sangh parivar. they
could not care less. The only counter to them can be political, and
our voices are our only means of trying to persuade other political
forces to counter this hate machine politically. We can only hope they
will be heard.

Postscript: On a more positive note, I'd like to quote from Geeta
Kapur's remarks on Ramu Gandhi at his memorial at the IIC in Delhi a
few weeks ago. Mentioning that she had a conversation with Ramu on
Husain and his forced exile shortly before Ramu's death, Geeta quoted

Ramu was extremely pained by the fact of Husain's imposed exile, he
said " I cannot understand why they are attacking Husain. He is like a
child. How can they attack him? He is like a toymaker our
traditional toymakers everywhere….he takes ideas, images, materials
and colours and he plays with them like a child …like a toymaker, and
like those toymakers, he will conjure up an image….and some of them
will magically be icons…"

I was very moved by this, and apologise to Geeta for quoting it, but I
felt it important to share!!!

Regards, Ram.

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