Sunday, 13 May, 2007

Artists unite against moral police. Supriya Sharma NDTV.COM

Painting row: Varsity dean suspended, Sahara Samay

comment RS

Shaji has expressed exactly what many persons like me feel.M F Hussain and other artists time and again take liberties in the subject matter of art. Hinduism is the most liberal of all religions. Hinduism does not impose compulsory visits to temples, observing fasts or daily rituals. Persons who defame religious icons whether in private examination hall or in an art gallery must take responsibility for the anguish caused to the sentiments of their hindu brethren.
Do they not know of the fatwa on the renowned author and the recent objections to Danish cartoons?
Niraj Jain has been given an opportunity to thrust himself to the limelight by this issue and he has grabbed it. Every chota politician whether Cong/BJP/SP/etc. never misses such a chance i. e. unless he/she is propelled by dynastic politics to rule over us.

read comments. Link

Baroda university dean suspended. Achyuth Punnekat.CNN-IBN

New Delhi: The Baroda Art controversy has taken a new twist. The dean of the Maharaja Sayajirao University's Fine Arts Faculty was suspended late on Friday night. Dean Shivji Panikker had come out openly in support of the students arrested for painting allegedly obscene works.

The University management has also closed down the exhibition where the paintings were on display.

BJP leader Niraj Jain said, “The students, teachers and the dean involved in this should immediately be suspended and if this is not done then the student leaders of Baroda will not remain silent."

That’s the demand the Hindutva brigade put forth after they vandalised this exhibition at the MS University on Wednesday for displaying allegedly obscene paintings.

And the University management seems to have completely bowed down to that fatwa. University top brass first refused to bail out the students who painted these works, when police arrested them.

And now the management has suspended the Fine Arts Faculty dean Shivji Panikkar after he openly supported his students.

MSU Fine Arts Faculty Dean Shivji Panikkar said, “Entire faculty of fine arts, staff, students and the artist community are with the student. I mean, the person is not even an artist. He's an art student. These are his creative works submitted for evaluation."

The University management reportedly decided to suspend Panikkar, after he refused to close down the controversial exhibition where the paintings were displayed.

Meanwhile, the arrested students are still in custody. One of them, Chandramohan, was produced in court on Friday.

The court has posted his bail hearing for Monday.


Artists unite against moral police. Supriya Sharma NDTV.COM

Supriya Sharma

Saturday, May 12, 2007 (Vadodara)

“ We have suffered enough. Cant allow this bullying to happen ”
- Shivaji Panikkar

The face-off between artists and the saffron brigade in Vadodara's M S University continues.

Members of the Fine Arts Faculty have gone on a mass casual leave in support of the suspended Dean, Shivaji Panikkar.

A local court meanwhile has extended the police custody of art student Chandra Mohan till Monday.

Chandra Mohan was attacked by VHP activists and jailed for so-called 'obscene art' but VHP activists are not satisfied. They now want Panikkar who defended Chandra Mohan's work to be arrested.

Autonomy at stake

Prof Panikkar, the dean in charge, was suspended on Friday night and has now gone into hiding, hounded by the moral police.

Panikkar met NDTV and broke down as he said this is a battle that now needs reinforcements. ''We have suffered enough. Cant allow this bullying to happen.''

There is enough support for Professor Panikkar, not just from artists but also from the university's teachers association.

Even a senate member argued that what is at stake is not just the freedom of an artist but the autonomy of an academic institution.

''Are we to allow people to walk into campus and tell us what we should be doing and what not. If this is allowed to happen then there's no end to it,'' said Prof Indraparamit Roy, faculty member.

''In the last few years, university has been taken over by the RSS. What you see today is ultimate saffronisation. Either you agree with us or else we bash you up. It is happening in appointments, promotions. The disgusting thing is the role of the Vice Chancellor who is meant to be a symbol of intellectual freedom,'' Prof Bandukwala, former faculty member.

Legal fight

On the face of it, this looks like solid support for the premier faculty of fine arts in what is one of the worst moments in its more than 50 years of history. But the odds against it are high.

BJP leaders argue that local leader Niraj Jain, who led the attack which ended in the student's arrest, did not violate the law.

''It is clear that the professors are misleading the students. No one has the right to hurt Hindu sentiment just because we are tolerant,'' said N V Patel, Head of Baroda BJP.

The student arrested is still behind bars, the dean stands suspended and the legal fight will have to be fought not just against VHP activist but against the university and as some would argue the law itself.

Art assault: Mumbai gathers in support NDTV.COM

NDTV Correspondent
Sunday, May 13, 2007 (Mumbai)

“ Whatever is happening is totally unacceptable! You can't use Hinduisim as a basis for your actions. ”
- Kitu Gidwani, model and actor

Protests are spreading to other parts of the country after the arrest of an art student by the police in Baroda.

Artists and art lovers in Mumbai got together to express solidarity for the student of one of India's best known fine arts colleges.

The student Chandra Mohan is still in jail after being arrested by the Gujarat police for the portrayal of Hindu Gods, in so called obscene manner, while the Dean of the Faculty has been suspended after protesting the arrest of the student.

Fight for freedom

From painting canvases to preparing protest posters, for students at Baroda's faculty of fine arts the last two days have been a lesson.

They are learning what the fight for artistic freedom is all about. ''You can't be dictated and told what is art and what is not,'' said one. ''The person who should be punished is still outside,'' said another.

''Today it was students, yesterday Parzania. How long can we tolerate this? We have to raise our voice,'' said another protestor.

These voices found an echo in Mumbai, where artists and others gathered to show their support to the students of Baroda.

''I find it a very sorry and sad situation. I think freedom has to be guarded,'' said Jehangir Sabavala, Artist.

''Whatever is happening is totally unacceptable! You can't use Hinduism as a basis for your actions,'' said Kitu Gidwani, model and actor.

''I think this is something very disturbing. It's bamboozling the freedom of expression,'' said Govind Nihalani, Filmmaker.

''It's got to do with politicians who try to rabble rouse and take advantage of such situations,'' said Alyque Padamsee, Adman and theatre-person.

As the country speaks up against moral policing and curbs on artistic freedom, artists in Mumbai hope their voice will also be loud enough to free Chandra Mohan, the art student who under arrest in Baroda. (With inputs from Supriya S, Yogesh P, Laxman J, Ramesh S, Vasudevan)


Baroda students to spend 6 days in jail CNN-IBN

Posted Friday , May 11, 2007 at 21:42
Updated Friday , May 11, 2007 at 21:49
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OBSCENE ART: BJP activists led by leader Niraj Jain had damaged the paintings that were on display.

Other stories in the section

New Ddelhi: The two students of the Fine Arts Faculty Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara arrested for painting what police considered obscene works of art will have to spend as many as six days in jail.

Chandramohan and Venkat Rao, who were arrested on Wednesday, were produced on Friday before a Baroda magistrate, who said that their bail application will be heard on Monday.

This is the second time they have been produced before a magistrate. The students were arrested by the police under charges of creating discord among groups by painting gods and godesses inappropriately.

On Wednesday, VHP and BJP activists had damaged the paintings in the hall where they were on display, claiming they were offensive.

Students of the university had protested protesting against the activists vandalising their exhibition. They are also protesting against the arrest.

But BJP leader Niraj Jain was not in the least apologetic claiming to have the support of Christian organisations as well. He threatened "action" against the university in no uncertain terms.

“The students should be thrown out of the university and the Dean also. This is something which is unacceptable,” Jain had said.


yes it seems like you are championing somewhat of a cause celebre, india sure is a strange and somewhat backward country, only this week i heard about one of the most famous artists in india, his name escapes me now, but he got into similiar hot water with distorted paintings of hindu gods, and then there was some court somewhere in north india that was trying to get a prision sentence for richard gere for kissing shilpa shetty ( an honoury brit now) a few times on the cheek, i mean who would'nt she's a damm fine piece of art if ever there was one,
anyhows, good luck with it all,
regards from afar,

Richard Cox Artist, Gallery Director, Senior Lecturer. Cardiff UK

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
outside interference.

Richard Cox
Artist, Gallery Director, Senior Lecturer. Cardiff UK

Chandramohan arrest draw protests across Tamil Nadu

The arrest of art student Chandramohan in Baroda and subsequent happenings including the suspension of Dr Shivaji Panikker, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University ,Baroda has sent shock waves in the world of art and culture in Tami Nadu.

Protests are being organized across the state against this assault on the sacred environs of a pre-eminent art institution in the country and on the idea of ‘free expression’ which is the very foundation of a democracy. The whole episode is seen by artists and writers in Tamil Nadu as an example of state terror and moral policing with the support of a fascist mob and brings into context once again the role of the State Government in Gujarat.

Artists and art students are gathering on Monday (6pm) at Hues Gallery in Chennai in a meeting called together by Professor Chandru, Principal of the Fine Arts College, Chennai together with art historians and writers Geetha Doctor and Sadanand Menon.
The meeting is to protest the arrest of Chandramohan and demand his immediate release and the re-instatement of Professor Shivaji Panikker in his position. Prof. Chandru, when asked his reaction to the happenings said that it was “very wrong”

Chennai based painter Asma Menon said that she is “shocked by the brutal and growing invasion of fascist forces into art portals” and said that she was “thinking about her children and their freedom of expression”. She said that it was “our duty to fight and defeat these threats to freedom” and that “the norms of artistic expression cannot be dictated by the state”.

Tamil Selvan, General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association ,
talking from Madurai said that “ this is an example of the intolerance of fundamentalists
to the idea of free artistic expression” and “ it becomes a blatant act of fascism when it is supported by state terror”. He said that the Progressive Writers Association will be organizing protests across Tamil Nadu.

Artists, writers and cultural activists will be gathering in the premises of ‘Vamsi Books’ in Thiruvannamalai in the evening of Sunday, 12th May, to protest the arrest of Chandramohan and to demand his release. Contemporary Tamil short story writer Bawa Chelladurai who is calling together the gathering said that “a sustained campaign for freedom of expression is the need of the hour as this is not the first instance of moral policing and there is been a whole series of incidents in the country”.

Also in Thiruvannamalai veteran artist and art teacher (former Principal of the Fine Arts College in Chennai) A. P. Santhanaraj said that “it’s very sad”, but refused further comments as he was still to be appraised of the details of the story.

A report by Ananda Surya, poet and cultural activis,t from Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

Protest Letters / Statements

We, the undersigned---artists, art lovers, and freedom loving citizens of India in Pune---condemn the shameful invasion of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda by a coercive group of outsiders during an in-faculty viewing of the works of students and the illegal arrest of a student Chandramohan for showing allegedly obscene works.

The students of the faculty as a novel and educative protest against this terrorist act mounted an in-faculty exhibition of 2,500 years of erotic art in Indian history. The Vice Chancellor of the MSU ordered this exhibition to be dismantled, which the Dean of the Faculty of Arts refused to do in the absence of written orders. The Dean was suspended by the Vice Chancellor. The arrested student has now been released on bail.

The Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Home Minister of Gujarat, and the Vice Chancellor of MSU owe an explanation---if not an apology---to the people of India for violating the Constitution of India by ignoring due process and encouraging populistic vandalism. Our feelings---as citizens of India---are hurt by these blatant unconstitutional acts.

Artists, writers, scholars, dissidents, and non-conformists must be allowed to express themselves freely. Once their work is in the public domain its value can be debated in a civilized way. Such continuous free debate and discussion is the very breath of democracy. This is the way a civil society looks at liberty.

We deplore that this should happen in the year in which India celebrates sixty years of independence and fifty-seven years of its secular democratic Constitution.

This is a national issue and not a state or local issue. It concerns all of us as individuals and, in particular, artists and art educators as a cultural minority. They cannot be let browbeaten or manhandled by goondas, hooligans, and vandals.

We urge you to sign this statement in approval of the above sentiments.


Date: Tue, 15 May 2007 11:12:49 +0530
Subject: IFA condemns attack on artistic freedom
India Foundation for the Arts pledges support for Chandramohan, Dr. Shivaji
Panikkar and the cause of artistic freedom

India Foundation for the Arts wishes to place on record its shock and
concern over the manhandling on May 9 of MS University Baroda, Fine Arts
Department student, Chandramohan by persons labelling his art work obscene
and offensive to religious sentiments. We are also deeply distressed about
the blatantly unfair suspension of Dean Dr. Shivaji Panikkar. Dr Panikkar is
one of the leading art historians of this country who has often and
generously shared his expertise with us.

This is a shameful moment in the history of our democracy. IFA calls upon
everyone in the arts community and outside it to lend their voices in
support of artistic freedom, civilised protest, open debate and tolerance
for diversity. Let us do all we can to ensure that Baroda never happens


Mrs Maneka GandhiMP,
Lok Sabha14
Ashok Road
New Delhi 10.5.2007

Dear Maneka
I am writing to you on behalf of the community of Indian artists,writers, and the larger fraternity of creative practitioners. As you may be aware, Chandramohan, a student of MS University Barodahas been arrested and kept in jail since May 9, as a consequence of anattack by VHP miscreants at a student examination at the universitypremises. The attack itself, and the fact that Chandramohan has beenheld on a nonbailable warrant is a cause for the most grievous concernfor the community at large. The dismantling of a peaceful exhibitionand the sealing of the art history department at MS University todayhas further exacerbated the situation. Coming on the heels of the sustained harassment of the senior artistMF Husain, the community of artists, writers and cultural activistshas been compelled to organize a series of protests at Baroda, Delhi,Mumbai and other cities and university centres in India. Given your close association with the arts both within government andat an individual level, we would request your specific support inraising a question in Parliament on monday, May 14 on the detentionand harassment of Chandramohan, within the larger and deeply troubledissue of freedom of expression in India. On behalf of the artist community I would also invite you to theprotest meeting at Delhi at the Lalit Kala Akademi at 6 pm on mondayMay 14, 2007.
Please do come and extend your support.

With warm regards
Gayatri Sinha

Dear friends,

I share all of your deep shock and outrage at what has occured at the Fine
Arts Department at M.S.University, Baroda, in the course of the past few
days,. I do not have words strong enough to condemn the uncalled for police
intrusion into the campus, the arrest of the post-graduate student, Chandra
Mohan, and the violence and indignity meted out to him, the disruption of
the protest exhibition organized at the Fine Arts Department, and the
consequent suspension of the Dean of the Fine Arts Department, Shivaji
Pannikkar. All this, coming in the wake of the unabated attacks and the most
recent court summons on M.F. Husain, comes as a chilling warning about the
extreme vulnerability of our public positions as artists, intellectuals, and
academics. It underlines the urgency of our mobilization today in defence
not only of our private rights of opinion and expression but equally of the
public domain of our autonomy and intellectual positions. I write this brief
note to express my full sympathy and solidarity for senior and junior
artists like Husain and Chandra Mohan, and for my colleague and fellow
academic, Shivji, at this hour of crisis. I also wish to express my
admiration for the brave and committed stand that Shivji and the entire
fraternity of the Fine Arts Faculty has taken on this issue, and their
refusal to kowtow to the commands of the University authorities. My
colleagues at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, will be
drafting a formal resolution and note of protest tomorrow to release to the
press, to coincide with the nation-wide protest meetings being organized
tomorrow (May 14) around these events. Meanwhile, I would be grateful if you
could circulate my note among the larger mailing group, and convey my
thoughts and support especially to Shivji.

Tapati Guha-Thakurta

Dear Hon. Anandiben Mafatbhai Patel, Minister for Education, State of Gujarat,
Hon. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister, State of Gujarat,
Hon. Y. R. Meena, Chief Justice, Gujarat High Court,
Hon. L. K. Advani, BJP Minister and Leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha,

On Thursday, May 10, 2007, Inspector Jhale of the Sayajiganj Police Station in Vadodara along with a group of VHP members entered the annual student evaluation held at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Vadodara. They used violence against Mr. Chandra Mohan , a Master's Candidate in the Faculty of Fine Arts and the police arrested him without warrant and without any cognizable offence. The charge leveled against him after the arrest is obscenity. The police and the VHP group are evaluating with their violence a student's work produced for his Master's dissertation. We are also aware that the Faculty of Fine Arts, particularly its students led by their Dean, Dr. Shivaji Panikkar have protested this action in various ways. This has led to Dr. Panikkar's suspension.

We are writing to you to lodge a protest against this action. We protest the arrest of a citizen of India without warrant. We also protest the interference by people who are not the student's teachers. Educational institutions are spaces where students learn skills and gain knowledge. They must have the freedom to experiment without fearing censorship, violence and legal action. Their teachers must evaluate students, as Mr. Chandra Mohan was, and not by a mob of people who use violence. This is fundamental premise of education in a democracy.

The events Gujarat not only undermine the freedom to learn but also undermine teachers and our system of education. M.S. University has a fine history of progressive education. The Faculty of Fine Arts has produced India's most renowned artists and the Art History Department is the first to be established in independent India. It is also one of the few departments where students can pursue their education through the Ph D.

We understand that the bail hearing has been heard but the judgment has been postponed to Monday, May 15, 2007. We ask all of you to recognize the importance of Mr. Chandra Mohan's predicament, drop the case against him and restore the integrity of the relationship between students, their teachers and their educational institution. We are asking you reverse the suspension of Dr. Panikkar.

We hope that you will all work together and arrive at a speedy way to rectify this travesty of justice

Art, Resources & Teaching
79 Hutchins Road IInd Cross
St Thomas Town, Bangalore 560 084

Dear All,
Forgive my resorting to a short cut. I am sending you a bcc of my letter to poet and art critic/historian Ranjit Hoskote to the shocking arrest of art student Chandramohan on the campus of the M.S. University, Baroda following a B.J.P. leader's objection to his works of art. The Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts has been suspended by the Vice Chancellor for backing the
student-artist. You can follow the story in the media. It has chilling implications for the
future of civil liberties in India.
If you have any comments, feel free to send them to New Quest.
Dilip Chitre

The incident at the Fine Arts College is yet another assault on democracy and freedom of expression. These fascist forces are getting away with their attack on basic human rights, because we are still not taking to the streets. There is a great urgency to save this country and we can't wait anymore for such incidents to happen. I am deeply saddened and just wanted
to express my solidarity with you and others who have taken a strong stand. Please convey the same to Chandra Mohan and other fellow members in this struggle. As you probably know, we are also gathering in large numbers (I hope!) at Rabindra Bhavan on the 14th at 6pm to protest against this cultural policing. In solidarity, Nandita Das
A-14 Gulmohar ParkNew Delhi-110049IndiaTel: +911126515387


BJP offending cultural world

BJP offending cultural world, says Maneka

AgenciesPosted online: Saturday, May 12, 2007 at 1554 hours IST

New Delhi, May 12: In a stinging attack on the saffron opposition to painter
M F Hussain's works and to an arts exhibition in a Gujarat university, BJP
MP Maneka Gandhi said the party and VHP activists have gone ‘too far’ in
their protests.
Bride Groom 18 - 24 25 - 30 31 - 35 36 - 45 46 - 50 50+India USA United Kingdom UAE Canada Australia Pakistan Saudi Arabia Kuwait
South Africa She also opposed the arrest of two arts students of M S University in
Vadodra in BJP-ruled Gujarat.
"VHP and BJP activists attacked and damaged their paintings. This is
unacceptable behaviour and I am sure, as a reasonable and open-minded
person, you will realise that we offend the entire cultural world and
thinking when we do this," she said in a letter to senior party leader L K
The Pilibhit MP, who praised Hussain for his charity, alleged that his
paintings had been misread deliberately and suggested that they were worthy
of being displayed in a museum.
"Even if they have been interpreted correctly, and objected to, that is the
purpose of good art: to arouse debate, to create emotion and passion, to be
a means of communicating the artist's own thoughts.
"Otherwise, all art would be a mediocre representation of the real world and
would have no value except as a photograph imitative record of the world,"
Gandhi wrote.
She regretted that Hussain was living in a self-imposed exile in Dubai and
London apparently for fears he could be attacked because of his paintings.
"He should be here in India and we should have a museum of his works on
public display, instead of considering which ones to ban and destroy,"
Gandhi said as she requested Advani to advise the party in Gujarat and
Maharashtra to call off their campaign against Hussain.