Saturday 12 May 2007

From Alumni

From: Mark Cazalet, Faculty of Fine Arts Alumni .


I am dismayed to hear of this extremely serious development at theFaculty.Is there anything I can do to help? Perhaps the validation of externalartists might cause local politicians to reflect on the status,influence and significance of the MSU FA dept. As you know I will bepermanently indebted to my eighteen months at Baroda, a life longcatalyst for my work, and vision of the great country and culturalpluralism that India contains. It sounds as though an entirely selfmade tragedy is underway whose end will be a regressive reduction from all that is vibrant and vital about MSU's work.

all best Mark
m.j.cazalet@btopenworld.com

Open letter to MSU V- C Manoj Soni

FROM PANTUL KOTHARI – CEO INTEGRA ADVERTISING AND SENATE MEMBER FROM MANAGEMENT FACULTY- REGISTERED GRADUATES CONSTITUENCY

To, May 11, 2007
The Vice Chancellor
Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda
Vadodara

Dear Manoj,

Its been more then one and half decade since we studied together at the Arts Faculty.
If you remember those times and the atmosphere then, there are some pleasant memories. The environment academic as well as extra curricular, is something Manoj we surely remember with foundness. You always were the prim and proper, the ideal student – the academic one. And I was the happy go lucky care a damn types. Having my finger in every pie right from theater to debating to elections, everything but academics. While I remember the good student, Manoj of then, who was a man of few words and carried himself with dignity and respect. And there is the Manoj the VC of today who somehow has been taken over by his ambitions and forgotten what as a student he got from the University. He seems to be appointed by powers – his masters and he is in total control of them as a puppet. Your actions since the last few years are absolutely shocking.

When you joined as VC here I was elated and came to meet you assuring you of all my support. But then your actions – which I cant believe are yours – you seem to be working on instructions of your masters. Having little control of what you are doing. Since you have taken over MSU has gone from frying pan to fire. You are singularly responsible for accelerating the decline of this lovely institution. Manoj you seem to be controlled by a group who has no interest in the progress of the University and they just want to rule the system. In the name of safronisation they are into very dirty power play and are hell bent on messing up and you seem to be in their total control so that you can continue as the Vice Chancellor. You are doing ‘justice’ to your designation- vice chancellor – you are for sure giving loads of CHANCES to all the possible VICES in the University.

My friend haven’t you changed a lot? You still carry the fixed smile from student days. Only thing is that the pleasant smile of then is replaced by a devilish fixed smile which is always there- seemingly enjoying the rape of the University.

What happened at the Fine Arts Faculty is simply shocking and unbelievable. The issue is not whether what the student had displayed was right or wrong. It is a separate matter. The issue is that outside fanatics in the name of culture or religion come into the campus and disturb the sacrosanct examination process, abuse and threaten academicians and students. And the university refuses to act. It is such a shame that instead of filing an FIR for trespass of University property and threats to teachers you and your bunch of cronies actually asked the teachers to apologize! How much will you fall and stoop to what levels to please your bosses? How much will your masters dictate your actions and you be part of their devious plans? My friend is there not even an iota of conscience left inside you? Are you just not bothered of your actions? I understand you did not take any action for nearly7 hours when the goons were roaming and terrorizing the faculty and students. Hundreds of students exams work was on display and the pieces of art were under threat of being damaged. You did not even feel once that you should act immediately. The exams were being disrupted and you did not care at all. Your office members came finally at 9.30 odd when the police was finishing the sealing of the display- exactly at that time. Looks as if you were part of the entire plan and were hand in glove with the goons. In fact till date the University has not taken any action against the alleged trespass. Isnt it shocking and shamefull.

The university is under your authority – if anything went wrong on it – it was you who was to act. Not Niraj Jain or anyone else. Or is it that you do not have any authority on the campus? And so you allow outside powers to take control. Manoj have things come to this level? I am sure you are holding on to your fixed smile as you read the letter – as your actions or rather lack of them would have got you more complements from your masters. And assured you maybe of another term as VC so that they can continue with your active support, their vices on the campus.

It is shocking that on the campus – which is like a large family we have outsiders ruling and the VC- who is supposed to be a respectable figure, a father figure to the University is encouraging them and asking senior academicians to apologise! If you allow me to be personal, in your house if your child or wife don’t listen to you or are wrong and don’t fall in line with the ideology of your masters – do you sort it out or call up Niraj Jain or some other fanatics to come and handle them? Threaten them? Abuse your wife and children and then maybe get them arrested? Surely not. Similiarly please don’t allow such rot to set on the campus. Please wake up my friend please do so.

And of course one little question from me –incidentally I am a Jain who prays twice a day and doesn’t have to wear a saffron band or get into hooliganism to prove that he is a good Hindu. The question I would like to ask your masters- if they are genuinely worried about peoples sentiments and religious purity etc--- do they ever wonder that during Ganesh Chaturti every single hour and every single day--- there is kajra re or bidi jaliale or such shit being sung and people most of them drunk dancing in front of gods idols? Similiarly during Navratri in Most of Gujarat, there is disco and filmi songs being sung in the name of Ma Ambe- doesn’t it pinch the religious moral police then? Would they find one painting or two objectionable at a college exam – which is purely internal and don’t mind their cadres in thousand dancing to obscene songs for days together at the Ganesh Pandals? Or they don’t have the guts to object there as it would be anti populist and possibly this is easier meat and gives them more publicity.
In fact the Fine Arts Faculty has preserved the traditional Garba with an absolutely traditional form of Garba at its Faculty. That is culture. What positive work has been done by the Saffron Brigade for Hindus? Except negative and destructive activities. We hindus are acting like fanatic extremists- let your masters know a true Hindus feelings.

It is sad that in the name of religion society is being hijacked and people like you who are at responsible posts- are behaving so shamelessly. I have seen and heard how the elections to senate, syndicate, promotions, threats to professors, arm twisting of academicians are taking place at the University by the so called saffron brigade goons. It is really sad – worse that you are an active part of it.

I don’t subscribe to any kind of religious insults and fanaticism from any religion Hindu, Christian or Muslim. And I repeat the issue here is not of what the student displayed – whether it was right or wrong. That was for you the authorities to decide in a civilized manner. It is an issue of letting hooligans enter rule and escape without any action – possibly with you and your cronies active support. And the tragedy that you instead asked the academicians for apology. It is extremely sad and distressful to see an old friend work like this. I may have been harsh, but have no regrets as you are doing much worse to the university. You are actually encouraging gang rape of the University, ofcourse you are smiling then too. And the fact that anyone sensible raises a voice in the University you brand him as anti BJP. Believe me I have always been a BJP voter supporter – but what you are guys are doing is extremely disgusting and will lead to the destruction of the once great University. And I feel ashamed that the party I support from my heart is part of this destruction.

Dear Vice Chancellor – do free the university of its vices- let your conscious awaken and you be your own master. You be what I knew you about 20 years back. Please work positively without any political biases with only the interests of the University in mind. Lets bring it back to its glory. Everyone makes mistakes. But it is never to late to realize and correct them. Jab Jaage Tab Swara Hai. Being a Soni, I presume you are from a community of jewellers –learn to respect the jewel MSU and stop the damage my friend. I plead stop it in the name of humanity.


Yours truly,
Pantul Kothari
9327245662
Senate Member – Faculty of Management Registered Graduates Constituency

Press Note

Press note 12th May 2007

We, the staff members of Faculty of Fine Arts, standby Prof.Shivaji Panikkar, who has been wrongly implicated and unceremoniously suspended by the University for sincerely discharging his duty as the In-charge Dean of the Faculty that is primarily to protect the integrity academic sanctity and the over all security of the faculty fraternity, when the University authorities failed to do so.

It should be noted that we are not in position to comment on the art work in dispute as the matter is sub-judice.

As has been repeatedly reiterated, the whole incident has been completely blown out of proportion to serve a political agenda, with the faculty being implicated also by the media fraternity. We hereby appeal to the media fraternity who themselves are the torch bearers of freedom of expression to stand by us and the truth, and empower us to get justice.

We would also like to know on what legal stand the university authorities sealed the department of Art History and Aesthetics, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the incident of contention.

It may be reminded that this reputed department has earned a Grant of Rs.86 Lakhs to the University from Sir. Ratan Tata Trust, thanks to the academic excellence and efforts of the deposed Head of the Department Prof. Shivaji Panikkar.

The Faculty members are taking Mass casual leave today (12-5-07) as protest against the step-fatherly attitude of the university authorities and the undue and uncalled for suspension of Prof. Shivaji Panikkar. In this moment of crisis we all stand united and absolutely emphasize that all decisions taken were on behalf and in agreement with all of us.

All the Staff members of Faculty of Fine Arts.

Gulam Mohammed Sheikh

Dear friends

You must have known through media reports that Chandra
Mohan, a student from the Department of Graphics at
the Fine Arts College in Baroda has been arrested on
9th of May 2007 for making an allegedly controversial


painting depicting nude figures with some religious
motifs. The arrest followed the storming of the
university premises by a group of outsiders. The work
in question was part of a display in the college

premises for assessment by a team of examiners for a

Master's degree in Fine Arts. Charged with sections
153 and 114 as well as sections 295 A and 295 B, he
has been denied bail and is presently in Central Jail,

Baroda.

In a civilized society any dispute on a controversial

depiction or content of a work of art can be dealt
with through dialogue and consultation with experts in
the field rather than left to self-appointed moral

police employing coersive means. In the present case,

the outsiders taking law into their hands barged into
the university campus without prior permission, did
not consult or inform the Dean of the Faculty before

disrupting the annual examinations in progress. The

reports are that they returned again to abuse the Dean
and threatened him with dire consequences.

Such an instance of assault on a student by outsiders

in the university premises is unprecedented in the

history of the Faculty of Fine Arts and must be
condemned in no uncertain terms. The Fine Arts College
known nationally and internationally for upholding the
highest standards of creative and critical practice


has also earned reputation for its firm commitment to
the freedom of expression. The former authorities of
the university like Smt. Hansa Mehta, the very first
Vice Chancellor in the fifties up to Prof. Bhikhu


Parekh in the eighties have stood by the Faculty and
its ideals. The present assault seems to strike at the
very ideals on which it was built by pioneering
artist-academics and supported by enlightened
university authorities. The present administration of


the university has not initiated any action against
the trespassers or applied for bail for the victimized
student. The students and staff of the Fine Arts
College have organized a dharna and the Acting Dean,


Prof. Shivaji Panikker has planned to undertake a
hunger strike in the College premises against the
assault on the student and callous attitude of the
university authorities. (Latest report is that the

Department of Art History has been sealed and Prof

Panikker has been suspended by the university
authorities). A solidarity demonstration of artists,
intellectuals and cultural workers from all over India

is called on 14th of May at the Fine Arts College
premises beginning 2 pm with an appeal to all

concerned to gather there to lend their support.
(Contact details below*).

As an alumnus and former teacher of the Faculty of

Fine Arts, I fear these developments may imperil the
working of an institution which in many ways has

formed our lives; and is indeed an integral part of
what we are today. I hope all other alumni and

teachers as well as concerned artists and
intellectuals of the country will come forward to
protect it in its moment of crisis when the values it

stands for are threatened.

Gulammohammed Sheikh
11th May, 2007


*Venue: Faculty of Fine Arts (or Fine Arts College),
Pushpabug, University Road, Vadodara (Baroda) 390002
TIME: 2 PM Onwards


Contact emails:
Shivaji Panikker:

shivji.panikkar@gmail.com
Deeptha Achar : <

deeptha.achar@gmail.com>

comment

Hi Friends,
www.artconcerns.com joins the protest against the Hindu fundamentalists vandalism at the Fine Arts Faculty, Baroda.

www.artconcerns.com brings you the latest happenings from the ground zero, Fine Arts Faculty, Baroda. Please log on to www.artconcerns.com to know the latest news and developments in Baroda. We update our site daily in order to cover the artists' protests happening all over India. We take it up as our moral responsibility.

As you know by now, a final year MFA (Graphics) student, Chandra Mohan was arrested on 9th May 2007 on the false charges levelled against him by a BJP leader Niraj Jain. Chandra Mohan is accused of representing Hindu Gods in indecent forms. Chandra Mohan's work constitute a part of his examination submissions and it was not meant for public viewing. Hindu fundamentalists entered the Fine Arts Faculty premises without prior permission and disrupted the examination procedures. Instead of arresting the hooligans who tried to vandalise the college, the Baroda Police arrested Chandra Mohan on false charges. He is now in Jail. He was denied bail and it is believed that he would be released only on Monday, provided the court finds time to do so! Meanwhile, the students of the faculty put up a show of images from Indian cultural heritage, which showed nudity expressed in aesthetic forms. It was a non-violent method to make the fundamentalists aware that India had a great level of tolerence and aesthetics. However, this show also was brought down by the hooligans with the help of the Pro Vice Chancellor of the M.S.University. The acting dean of the faculty, Shivji Panikkar refused to comply with the authorities and he was suspended from his official duties without prior notice. Various protest meetings have been organised by the artists community all over India.

In order to express solidarity with the protesting students and faculty members, the Delhi Art Community will gather on 14th May (Monday) 2007 at 6 pm at the Lalit Kala Akademy Lawns.

www.artconcerns.com requests all the artists, intellectuals and responisible citizens of Delhi to join the protest meeting on Monday.

Of, by and for freedom of expression

JohnyML
www.artconcerns.com

comment

Thank you for the same I have some friends in Baroda let me see if they can do something or spread awareness....This is unacceptable independence of expression thru any form of art is a basic right.






--
Thank You,

Mehul Patel

Co-Founder - Indy Chai - India's first Web 2.0 Hyper Aggregated
Portal - http://IndyChai.com

comment

Thanks for taking the right initiative to fight the facist ... I am
totally disturbed to see the vandalism by safforn goons as well self
appointed moral watch man in our university campus..
who the hell are they to take the law in thier hand and manhandle the
artist.. If a peice of art of an artist disturb the sentiment of so
call hindu cadres they simply dont have any right to enter the fine
arts collage premises and beat the artist.. In which soceity we are
living ?...

Being an alumn of the university I strongly condem the action of
officer bearer of M.S University ... Are they become political slave
of Modi Govt....Is not it the job of authority of academic institution
to save its students from illegial attack.. Why after 48 hrs no bail
effort has been made by university.. Its a shame.. !

I whole heartedly support effort taken by you and other former teacher
to put a strong resistence for this kind of behavior..

shame .!..shame ! ...shame ! ... its high time civil society of
vadodara , artist fraternity and other like minded peeple come forward
and see that real culprit get judicial punishment... I will also urge
you that, on your capacity pls file a PIL in higher court againts
the university administration and governemnt concern.. University
officer bearer can not act like a political agent ...

Punish those safforn goons , punish the authority and finally I pray
that the said artist should get justice..

best of luck buddy..lets start a signature protest campign and present
to central and state government for action..

LONG LIVE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ...LONG LIVE ARTIST FREEDOM

Best regards

B.Bhattacharya ( Bhutu)
(A former student of M.S.U)

Letter to Registrar

To
The Registrar
The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda
Baroda.

Dear Sir,

We the staff members and the students of the Faculty of Fine Arts are of the opinion that in view of the fact that outside elements forced their way into the premises of the Faculty on the 9th of May at about 3.30 pm and caused not only immediate closure of the examination work that was underway but got the police to take the final year student into custody and resorted to a near riot like situation and were despite all this were allowed to go scott-free, is a matter of great concern to us. Unfortunately we are now under pressure to offer apologies for permitting display of the allegedly offensive paintings. We the undersigned are firmly of the view that like any work of art, the intention of the said works were not to hurt anybody’s sentiments but to examine taboos in the light of creative investigation. They were certainly not intended to cause hurt or outrage to any public sentiment whatsoever.

It may also be stated that the said works were part of the final year annual display. The display is part of the annual examination process and an internal academic matter of the faculty over a considerable span of time and not an aberration in the academic procedures of the Faculty. Hence the disruption caused is an attempt not only to disrupt the process of evaluation but designed to undermine the stature and autonomy of an educational institute of international repute. There were attempts on the part of Mr. Niraj Jain and the mob accompanying him to paint the pictures as “anti Gujarat” and to inflame passions so as to cause maximum damage. It may also be noted that these very people were seen to be moving around with impunity, threatening and abusing students and teachers. This is a cruel irony in view of the fact that it is the Faculty of Fine Arts has made substantial contributions toward placing Gujarat and Baroda on the international cultural scene along with making equally substantial contributions in enriching the local environment.

It should be categorically stated that Mr. Niraj Jain did not want to discuss anything peacefully with the Faculty authorities and was, in fact, aggressively contemptuous of them. He came with the intention to cause disruption and breach of peace. This amounts to willful disruption of the examination process and wanton violation of the autonomy and sanctity of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

The action constitutes an assault on the core values of the university or for that matter of any academic institution in a democratic country like India. If situations such as the above are allowed to prevail, it would not only undermine the fundamental freedom provided to us by the constitution but also render it impossible for the faculty and its departments to function meaningfully.

We, therefore, urge upon you to safeguard the integrity of the university by filing an FIR immediately, identifying the perpetrators of whom the principal has already been named as Mr Niraj Jain.

Yours sincerely Copy to the Vice-Chancellor

Press statement

PRESS STATEMENT

On the 9th of May 2007, Wednesday, outside elements forced their way into the premises of the Faculty of Fine Arts at 3.30pm and caused not only immediate closure of the examination work that was underway but got the police to take the MVA final year student Chandra Mohan into custody. They resorted to abusive language, threat of bodily harm and despite all this were allowed to go scott-free. It is a matter of great concern to us. Unfortunately we are now under pressure to offer apologies for permitting display of the allegedly offensive paintings. We the undersigned are firmly of the view that whether we like it or not an artist has the right to express unconventional views in a work of art. The intention of the said works were not to hurt anybody’s sentiments but to examine taboos in the light of creative investigation. They were certainly not intended to cause hurt or outrage to any public sentiment whatsoever. Besides, they were not part of a public exhibition. If anyone felt that any work ‘offends’ their sensibility it could have been brought to the notice of the authorities without resorting to abusive, indiscriminate and uncalled for behavior. In the unfortunate circumstances if any published image, seen out of the context, has caused hurt to anybody it is regretted.

It is pertinent to state that the said works were part of the final year annual display. The display is part of the annual examination process and an internal academic matter of the faculty over many years and not an aberration in the academic procedures of the Faculty. Hence the disruption caused is an attempt not only to disrupt the process of evaluation but designed to undermine the stature and autonomy of an educational institute of international repute. There were attempts on the part of Mr. Niraj Jain and the mob accompanying him to paint the pictures as “anti Gujarat” and to inflame passions so as to cause maximum damage. It may also be noted that these very people were seen to be moving around with impunity, threatening and abusing students and teachers. This is a cruel irony in view of the fact that it is the Faculty of Fine Arts that has made substantial contributions toward placing Gujarat and Baroda on the international cultural scene along with making equally substantial contributions in enriching the local environment.

It should be categorically stated that Mr. Niraj Jain did not want to discuss anything peacefully with the Faculty authorities and was, in fact, aggressively contemptuous of them. He came with the intention to cause disruption and breach of peace. This amounts to willful disruption of the examination process and wanton violation of the autonomy and sanctity of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

The action constitutes an assault on the core values of the University or for that matter of any academic institution in a democratic country like India. If situations such as the above are allowed to prevail, it would not only undermine the fundamental freedom provided to us by the Constitution but also render it impossible for the faculty and its departments to function independently and meaningfully.

Letter to National Human Rights’ Commission

11th May, 2007
To
The Chairman
National Human Rights’ Commission
New Delhi

Sir,
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.

Yours sincerely
Faculty and students, Faculty of Fine Arts
The M.S. University of Baroda