Tuesday, 15 May, 2007

Protest Demonstration agains events in Baroda: From Lalit Batra

Via: Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Dear All,

(apologies for cross posting on Vikalp, Commons Law, Reader List and CAC

I have recieved a mail from Lalit Batra, about a protest demonstration
against Chandramohan's (the MSU Baroda art student) and the closure of
exhibitions at the faculty of fine arts, MSU Baroda, and the suspension
of faculty (Shivji Pannickar) planned for tomorrow, 12th of May, at 3
p.m. at Gujarat Bhawan, Chanakya Puri, Near Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi.

Anyone wanting to contact Lalit Batra about this (or for more
information can call Lalit at 9899091413)

I am pasting the message from members of the faculty (Bina Sriniviasand
and Shivji Panickkar) that Lalit circulated below. Although everyone on
this list is by now familiar with this story, this notice does have
details of the sections of the penal code under which Chandramohan is
being charged - Sections 153A and 114, along with Section 295. I would
urge everyone to pay attention especially to the wonderful alliance
between VHP activists and Christian priests in Gujarat, against the
freedom of expression of a student.

Further, here are some details about the relevant sections:

Section 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of
religion, race etc, commiting acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public

According to the section whoever by words or expression promotes enmity
between different groups of the country on the grounds of religion,
race, place of birth, residence, language, or any such grounds or
commits an act which is prejudicial to the harmony of he public is
culpable under the section with imprisonment which may extend to three
years with or without fine. Further, when the offence is committed on
any religious place or any place worship the imprisonment can extend to
5 years with or without fine. The offence is non-bailable and even
cognizable (after 1898) ie. Police can arrest a person under the section
without warrant.

Section 295: Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult
the religion of any class

Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object
held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby
insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge
that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage
or defilement as a insult to their religion, shall be punished with
imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two
years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage
religious feelings

Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or
any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs 295A.
Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or
any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the
religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either
spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or
otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious
beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either
description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or
with both.

Section 114 is about abetment and presence when any crime is being

As a close reading of these sections would suggest, the problem lies not
only with the act, but also with the idea of intention.

The problem is, Chandramohan's lawyers can at best argue that his
actions are not evidence of his intentions. However, an artist is such
only because his actions have deliberation. Thus, to save Chandramohan
the person from a prison sentence, his lawyers might have to jettison
Chandramohan's identity as an artist. Such an argument, given the
circumstances that the images in question were made for an exam of the
fine arts department, may be impossible, or at the very least, difficult
to sustain,

The reason that distinguishes between the scrawls made by a chimpanzee
and an abstract expressionist has to do with the idea of intention. To
protect Chandramohan's act as an instance of un0 malicious behavious, it
has to be freed from the matrix of artistic intention. We cannot really
quarrel about the purport of the intention, because the onus of proving
hurt, has to do not with the hurter, but with the hurtee.

Hurt, is a subjective feeling, and as long as the hurt say that they
feel their pain, we are in no position to debate whether their pain or
humiliation is real or imagined. There cannot, in fact be, imagined or
feigned pain, because a court is in no position to measure the intensity
of feeling on any given issue. Thus when a person says that their
religious sensibilities are hurt, a court has to listen, (if the injury
to sensibilities is mentioned as a cause of harm). Chandramohan cannot
say that he intended to cause pain. He can only say that he intended to
cause meaning to be read into his actions. If someone says that they
read meaning in his actions in a manner that caused them pain, there is
very little that Chandramohan or his lawyers can say in defence against
such a charge

The only thing that can be debated is the question of whether or not
there was 'intention'in the first place. As an artist, Chandramohan
cannot run away from intention.

Therefore the only recourse that anyone wishing to protect the freedom
of speech in this case is to subject the law itself to criticism, not to
speculate about whether it's application in this case is an instance of
its misreading.

This means arguing for a straightforward assault on sections 153 and
295. The only way that an artist or a writer's freedom of speech can be
protected against religious zealots is through a complete and total
repeal of sections 153 and 295.

Having said that, arguing for these provisions to be struck down also
means accepting the right of the Hindutva forces to insult and (through
speech acts, signs, and visual representations) humiliate and attack
people of other religions and convictions.

I have no problem with that, but many who will rightly condemn the
freedom of Chandramohan to act as he has done, will also call for bans
on the 'hate speech' of those who have moved the machinery of law and
order against him.

Let it be understood that to do that will only invite further assaults
on the freedom of art students like Chandramohan in the future.
Meanwhile, I would urge everyone to attend as many meetings and
protests, as possible on this issue, and make people aware of the
draconian nature of sections 153 and 295.



An attack on cultural freedom: Mumbaikars


'Free art, fight fascism'

MUMBAI: From painters and poets to dancers, film-makers, students, actors, journalists, bloggers, trade unionists, lawyers, bureaucrats, and even the President of the Bombay Rotary, it was a rainbow coalition of over 200 liberals who came together on the pavement outside the city's oldest public artspace, the Jehangir Art Gallery, to protest the way in which the Baroda police had arrested Chandramohan, a student at the M S University, on grounds of "promoting enmity between different groups".

As part of his final examination, Chandramohan had put up three religious-themed prints. The exhibition was meant for only examiners and students. On Wednesday, VHP members, led by Nitish Jain, attacked the installations and demanded Chandramohan's arrest. He was immediately arrested and released on bail on Monday after five nights in jail.

Organised by the Free Chandramohan Committee, the Jehangir demonstration was informally moderated by Kekoo Gandhi, the eminence grise of the Mumbai art scene, and art critic Ranjit Hoskote.

The steps served as an impromptu stage to which speaker after speaker stepped up to make their statements. Seated right in front was Tyeb Mehta, who despite his fragile health, had travelled all the way from Lokhandwala Complex, to register solidarity. M F Husain also sent a painting. Many in the audience wore placards which read 'Don't Sing, Dance, Paint, Write, Love. Live in Fear.'

Another poster, in a nod to Gandhigiri, read, "Nitish Jain, Get Well Soon."

A number of speakers condemned the "fascist state of Narendra Modi" and drew comparisons with the Nazis whose rise to power was marked by the burning of books and clamping down on art. Quoting Martin Neimoller's 'First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak up...' poem, former civic chief Jamshed Kanga said one should strike out against "this moral policing that is totally immoral".

Journalist Anil Dharker spoke out against Manoj Soni, the vice-chancellor of the MS University, who had failed to stand up for his student. Dharker said one could expect little from a vice-chancellor "whose only claim to fame is that he wrote a book about the Gujarat carnage and endeared himself to Narendra Modi".

Sudha Varde, the veteran socialist, said writers and artists had often been at the receiving end of political censorship, and cited the example of Vijay Tendulkar who was targeted by the Shiv Sena.
Senior artist Jehangir Sabavala made the point that in a democracy there were many ways to tackle issues but "not in this savage way where you storm a university, a sanctified space. This whole fascist tendency must be put down".

"I am speaking as a Gujarati," said writer Prabodh Parikh to applause. "I am proud to be a Gujarati and I wish to say there is another Gujarati identity that is not Narendra Modi and not Mahatma Gandhi. It is the modern-minded Gujarati who lives in Bombay."

Among those present were artists Mehli Gobai, Jaideep Mehrotra and Julius Mcwan; poets Arjun Dangle, Imtiaz Dharker and Anand Thakore; mill unionist Datta Ishwalkar; Tasneem Mehta of heritage group Intach, publisher Bina Sarkar Ellias; film-makers Saeed Mirza and Chitra Palekar; actress Konkona Sen, dancer Jhelum Paranjape; theatre director Pratap Sharma; and free software advocate Vickram Crishna who even broadcast the meeting on 96 FM.


Artists cheer Chandramohan’s release from Vadodara jail

Prominent personalities from various walks of life had voiced their protest against ‘suppression of free thought’

Express News Service

Mumbai, May 14: IT was a protest that turned into a celebration, when news of young artist Chandramohan Srilamantula’s release from a jail in Vadodara reverberated across Mumbai’s cultural circuit. The citizens who had gathered outside Jehangir Art Gallery on Tuesday marked the occasion with applause and cheer.

However, though the mood was jubilant, those gathered outside the gallery, along with the Free Chandramohan Committee, made it a point to emphasise that the struggle for freedom of expression was not quite over.
“Our task is not over. We still have to protect the rights of academic institutes to nurture free expression and thought and secure Dean Shivji Panikkar’s reassignment to his post,” said art-critic Ranjit Haskote.

Earlier, on May 9, members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, led by local BJP leader Niraj Jain, stormed into the campus of Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University in Vadodara and abused and attacked Srilamantula claiming that they found his work obscene and offensive to religious sentiments.

The whole incident evoked strong reactions everywhere. In Mumbai, two hundred people including prominent personalities from various walks of life like artist Tyeb Mehta, Jehangir Sabavala, gallery owner and art champion Kekoo Gandhy, art-critic Ranjit Hoskote, filmmaker Chitra Palekar, danseuse Jhelum Paranjepae, actresses Konkona Sen and Ayesha Dharkar, playwright Pratap Singh and several others gathered at the Jehangir Art Gallery with banners that read ‘Down with Moral Policing’ and ‘Defend our Cultural Freedom’.

“Incidents like these are not isolated and concern all of us since it's something to do with violation of our civil liberties,” said art-critic Hoskote. Dharkar pointed out that it was disappointing that Pro Vice Chancellor of the Maharaja Sayajirao University rusticated the Dean.

Painter MF Hussain too sent his message via fax from London. He sent a painting that depicted the fall of democracy and the oppression of free thought. Theatre person Nadira Babbar said, “MF Hussain has not been able to see the play Pencil Se Brush Tak which we dedicated to him because he is unable to return home. We should be ashamed at the way we have given in to fundamentalist forces. It is time to raise our voices,” she said.

Paranjepae added: “Even Indian classical dance derives its mudras from Indian’s erotic sculptures. Are we going to ban that next?”

Chandramohan set free - Judge says he did not have mala fide intention, nor was he a threat

Express News Service
Posted online: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 0000 hrs

VADODARA, MAY 14 : MSU student Chandramohan was released on bail today after five days in jail on charges of “objectionable art work” and threatening national integration. Senior Civil Judge M J Parashar in his order said Chandramohan had not painted with mala fide intention, neither was he a threat to public peace if released. The judge also observed that the student had no criminal background. Niraj Jain, who lodged the complaint in the first place, has decided not to move the Gujarat High Court in the matter.
Parashar granted Chandramohan unconditional bail for Rs 5,000, which was paid by faculty of fine arts teacher Santosh Das, following counsel Narendra Parmar’s arguments. Parmar is a former syndicate and senate member of MSU. However, Chandramohan was ordered to notify the police if he planned to leave the state or country while the case was on. After his release at around 5 pm, only Parmar and the media were present to meet the student.
When asked whether Chandramohan would pursue the case in the Gujarat High Court, Parmar refused to answer and said he would take a decision later.
Meanwhile, university authorities denied permission to MSU alumni and artists from all over country to enter the fine arts faculty premises today. But the protesters went ahead with their of show of solidarity for Chandramohan and suspended faculty dean Shivaji Panikar, as they milled around the faculty gate.
However, things turned ugly when an ABVP-led group arrived at the spot and hurled abuses at the peaceful demonstrators. They even targeted human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi who was in city to support the demonstration. Finally at around 3 pm, the ABVP group forced the alumni association members to disperse.

( www.artconcerns.com ) Human Chain in Baroda

Artists from all over India came to Baroda on 14th May 2007 and they formed a human chain in front of the Faculty of Fine Arts in order to send a message to the government and the hooligans that the art community is one and together. A report from Baroda.

14th May 2007 (Monday) was a crucial day for Baroda. The students and the faculty members reached the Faculty of Fine Arts for preparing the evening’s protest march. Strict measures were imposed by the University authorities so that only the students and faculty members with identity cards were allowed to enter inside the campus. “On Sunday night the university authorities made some special meetings to curb the protest and also the made orders to bring in security forces to control the entry and exit in the faculty,” one of the Faculty members told www.artconcerns.com.

By 12 in the morning the happy news reached the artists community. The arrested student, Chandramohan was released on a bail bond of Rs.5000. He was whisked away by the students and activists special wing and he is reported to have told not to talk to the media till the problems are solved. The students and activists are said to have keeping vigil to ensure the artist’s security. The lawyer who appeared for Chandramohan said that his affairs will be conducted smooth in future. Meanwhile, the suspended Dean of the Faculty, Dr.Shivji Panikkar continued to hide on Monday also. The state has not yet ensured the security to his life and property.

The protest meeting was supposed to happened by 2 pm. The alumni members and other artists camping in Baroda since the outbreak of problems reached the faculty in the morning itself. However, they were not allowed to enter the faculty. Following their heels the ABVP activists also reached the scene shouting slogans. Around fifty artists and art workers came to Baroda from Mumbai, Delhi and other parts of the country to express their solidarity.

As decided the protest meeting started at 2 pm and the police appeared soon. They asked the protestors to disband and threatened that more police force would be called in case of emergency. The artists said that they were doing peaceful demonstration, which the police was not ready to buy. They suspected escalation of violence thanks to the presence of the BJP, ABVP activists in the vicinity. The police arrested around twenty five students and kept them in custody for a few hours. Later they were released.

After much deliberation, the artists decided to call off the evening protest rally and formed a human chain along the Fateganj- Sayajiganj road. The media was present in full force and the artists demonstrated peacefully. The alumni representatives said that as the official holidays start from this week, the agitation would be resumed by June 15th once the faculty reopens. They said that they would continue their agitation until justice is gained. The artists who are camping in Baroda from Mumbai said that they would intensify the campaign from their respective locations so that the heat of the protest is not diminished. They condemned the university authorities and the state government for taking callous approach towards the Faculty of Fine Arts issue. They congratulated the artists community all over India, which is fighting for justice from their own places and extending support to Chandramohan and Dr.Shivji Panikkar.
More reports on ( www.artconcerns.com )

Protest letters from UK

To whom it may concern:

I learn with the utmost concern of recent events affecting the Fine Arts
College in Baroda. The invasion of the university premises and the
arrest and jailing of a student obviously all form part of a concerted
attack on the free academic activities of an institution that enjoys a
world-wide reputation for the excellence of its teaching and the high
standard of its academic achievements.

For a number of years, while I was Professor at the Painting School of
the Royal College of Art in London, I was invited to teach in the Fine
Art Faculty at Baroda. I did so for several months, and remember this
period as being one of the most fruitful and rewarding times of my long
academic career.

It would appear to me essential that the competent authorities move with
the utmost speed to terminate any acts of intimidation and to restore
full democratic rights to a very remarkable Indian institution that can
be seen to uphold the quality and democratic freedom for which it is
justly renowned.

Yours faithfully,

Peter de Francia
What a horrific set of events and descent into chaos. It always appears that fundamentalists are still
the most afraid of the power of the image.

I am sending your e mail and info of events so far on to press contacts I have here to see if it can become international news.

I fully support your campaign and I hope that Chandra and Prof Panniker are vindicated in there actions for freedom for
the artist against this attempt to bully and to silence.

Best wishes


Dexter Dalwood
8 Angel Mews, London N1 9HH
tel: +44 (0) 20 7833 9962

We fully support Dr. Shivaji Panikkar and Chandramohan. I will personally convene a meeting a meeting on the 14th of May in London at the Central Saint Martins College of art and design in strong opposition to right wing politics. We will also approach the local press and try to publish any further news we get on this matter.

Please send us your opinions about this issue on the following ids so that we can display these messages in our meeting.

Those of you who will be able to attend the meeting at the Faculty of Fine Arts please oblige to photograph the event and send them to us.

Thank you,

HImanshu Desai

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

Protest Meetings


Artists from New Delhi, Bangalore, Cochin, Mumbai, Vishakapatnam, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kolkata and Santiniketan will come together on May 14 at 6 pm to register their protest against the highhanded action taken by the police under the instigation of a local politician against Chandramohan, a student from the Arts Faculty of Baroda University. 23-year-old Chandramohan, a final year MVA student, has been in police custody since May 9 when outside elements forced their way into the premises of the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University, Baroda, without permission from the Faculty or University and prevailed upon the police to arrest him. Charging him under non-bailable Sections, they also imposed immediate closure of the examination work that was underway.
As a mark of protest, artists from the different cities will congregate to raise their collective voice against this violation of freedom of expression and autonomy of educational institutions. They will extend solidarity to the staff and students of Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, who have not only stood steadfast with the incarcerated student Chandramohan, but have over many decades painstakingly built an academic institution of great repute and distinction. The Art History Department of M S University of Baroda is recognized all over the world as a center of excellence.



Condemning the arrest of Chandramohan, art student, on 9th May 2007 and the suspension of Shivaji Panikkar, Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts on 10th May 2007 at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda.

Issued by Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies
Vidyasagar’s Art Centre

Released at a protest meeting supported by Shrishti Art Gallery, Hyderabad
On Sunday, 13th May 2007
Dear Friends,

Even as we were holding a press conference in solidarity with M.F. Husain at the Press Club in Delhi on Tuesday, 9 May, another assault on artistic freedom took place in Baroda. A BJP leader, accompanied by the local police, entered the Faculty of Fine Arts at MS University, and attacked the work of an art student, Chandramohan, exhibited as part of the internal review process of the university. Chandramohan was arrested and is yet to be granted bail. Further, on 11 May, the
university authorities closed down an exhibition of classical Indian art put up by the students and
suspended the acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Professor Shivaji Panikkar.

We are holding a large protest meeting on the lawns of Rabindra Bhavan, Mandi House, New Delhi on Monday, 14th May, at 6 pm.

We have also urged the leaders of all secular political parties to send their representatives/MPs to the protest meeting.

Please join us and extend your solidarity.

Ram Rahman & Vivan Sundaram