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H-ASIA May 14, 2007 Further reports on events at the M. S. University of Baroda ********************************************************************** From: Sugata Ray <firstname.lastname@example.org> Dear Colleagues: By now you might be aware of the unfortunate incident that occurred on May 9, 2007. Accompanied by the Gujarat police, Vadodara-based BJP leader Niraj Jain (accused for the 2002 Gujarat carnage by Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat), along with his associates, stormed into the Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Baroda. Barging into the Graphics Department, where the annual examination/display was being conducted, they disrupted the proceeding by manhandling Chandramohan, a final year MA student (and recipient of the Gujarat Lalit Kala Academy Award, 2005-06). Subsequently, Chandramohan was arrested and charged under sections 153A, 114, and 295 of the Indian Penal Code for "promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc, committing acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public." His examination works - which had been put up only for the sole purpose of the final examination - were apparently "offensive" to public religious sentiments. Chandramohan has been denied bail and is still in police custody. On the other hand, Niraj Jain and his companions, along with the police, roamed freely abusing artists, students, and faculty members for the rest of that day. The University authorities not only refused to support the students and the staff but insisted that Professor Shivaji Panikkar, Dean in charge of the Faculty (as well as author and editor of *Saptamatrka Worship and Sculptures*, 1997; *Twentieth-Century Indian Sculpture*, 2002; *Towards a New Art History: Studies in Indian Art*, 2003 among others), apologize to the BJP. On the next day, when the students and staff, denied any other form of protest, put up an exhibition focusing on the long history of erotic imagery in both Indian and Western art, the Pro-Vice Chancellor, accompanied by some members of the Syndicate of the University, came to the campus, for the first time, only to seal the exhibition. The Department of Art History was also sealed, and the Dean suspended on May 12. The BJP members, who had come to see the exhibition, threw abuses at the women faculty and students, going so far as to say that they would like to see their nude pictures on the wall. In India, the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University Baroda has played a particularly significant role in molding a radical politics for the Indian art world. In the recent past, the Faculty has been consistently critiquing the right-wing fascist politics of the Gujarat government. Moreover, over many decades, the Art History Department has been at the forefront of the discipline, formulating a postcolonial politics for Art History in India. It is only natural that this radical Faculty eventually became the target of the BJP. Over the last few days, art historians, critics, activists, artists and art lovers have launched a nation-wide protest against the Gujarat government's latest act of fascism. So far the battle is being fought on many levels – emails, blogs, protest meetings, legal proceedings, petitions, press releases, and signature campaigns. There is also an attempt to raise this issue at the Parliament. And, as ex-students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, currently associated with the University of Minnesota, we feel compelled to request, urge, and enlist your support to protest against this gross outrage on intellectual liberty, democracy, and the sanctity of the academy. On May 14, we have organized a meeting in Vadodara where the academy and art world from all over India will convene to protest and express solidarity with the Faculty, Chandramohan, and Professor Shivaji Panikkar. Any support, in any form, on your part would immensely help in what is turning out to be a full-fledged war against the Hindu Right in Gujarat. We urge you to forward and distribute this email widely since it has been impossible for us to reach out to everyone. You could also send letters of protest to: Ambassador Ronen Sen Embassy of India 2107 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington D.C. 20008 Tel: (202) 939-7000 Fax: (202) 265-4351 Email: email@example.com Alternate Email: firstname.lastname@example.org High Commissioner Kamalesh Sharma Indian High Commission India House Aldwych, London WC2B 4NA Phone: 44 71 836 8484 Fax: 44 71 836 4331 Email: email@example.com Permanent Representative of India to the UN Mr. Vijay K. Nambiar 235 East 43rd Street New York, NY 10017 Tel: (212) 490-9660 Fax: (212) 490-9656 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The President of India Abdul Kalam Office of the President 152 South Block Delhi New Delhi, India Email: email@example.com Website: http://presidentofindia.nic.in/ Prime Minister Dr. Manmoham Singh South Block, Raisina Hill New Delhi, India 110011 Tel: 011 91 11 2301 2312 Fax: 011 91 11 2301 9545 Write to PM at http://pmindia.nic.in/write.htm Manoj Soni Vice Chancellor, M. S. University Phone: +91-265-2795600 Fax: +91-265-2793693 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org People's Union for Civil Liberties 13, Pratap Kunj Society, Karelibaug, Vadodara - 390 018 Phone : +91-265-464210 Fax No: +91-265-340223 Email: email@example.com Thank you, Atreyee Gupta firstname.lastname@example.org Sugata Ray email@example.com For further information, please see: http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/may/10art.htm http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20070011502 http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20070011809 http://www.ibnlive.com/news/baroda-art-controversy-intensifies/40455-3.html http://www.ibnlive.com/news/debate-tolerance-where-art-thou/40202-3.html http://www.ibnlive.com/news/baroda-university-dean-suspended/40421-3.html http://www.ibnlive.com/videos/40386/2artstudentstospend6daysinjail.html http://fineartsfacultymsu.blogspot.com/ The Events so Far (Prepared by Dr Deeptha Achar, Department of English, M S University): *9th May 2007 * Exam and evaluation work in progress At around 3:30 in the afternoon, Niraj Jain storms into the Faculty of Fine Arts. He has a section of the media with him, and soon after calls the police who arrive in about two minutes, by which time they have manhandled Chandramohan. A final year MA student from a small village in Andhra Pradesh, Chandramohan is a BC, his father is a carpenter, and he studied at the JNTU, Hyderabad, and is one of the three Gujarat Lalit Kala Academy Awardees of 2005-'06 Police whisk away Chandramohan and his friend Venkat Rao without producing an FIR or a warrant, and without having taken permission from the in-charge Dean, Dr. Shivaji Panikkar or the Vice-Chancellor of the University. While all this is happening, Niraj Jain abuses and threatens Dr. Panikkar, other staff, and the students of the Faculty. Even though the Dean had informed the Vice-Chancellor and other authorities of the events taking place on campus, no help was forthcoming from their side. None of the higher authorities visited the Faculty. The police order the removal of the 'offensive' pictures. All the while Niraj Jain and his associates roam freely in the campus threatening staff and students alike. The police ACP, T. R. Parmar order that the offending five works be taken down and sealed. This was communicated to the Vice Chancellor, and the sealing process begun. Niraj Jain and associates want to tear down the works and vandalise them. Towards the end of the sealing process, the in-charge Registrar, Mr. Beedekar arrives, during which time the students have drafted a complaint to the Police Commissioner, who directs them to lodge a compliant at the Sayajigunj Police Station. Initially the police refuse to register the compliant, but after some time they accept it, but as of today, it has not been lodged as an FIR. Following further negotiation with the Police Commissioner, it has been lodged in the Police Bhavan, in order for consideration as an FIR. The Dean's statement was also taken. Only late at night was a copy of the FIR against the student, under Section 153A, released. The student body's compliant has to date not been acknowledged. The Center for Social Justice has appointed a lawyer who agreed to handle the case. *10th May 2007* Chandramohan was produced at court at about 10:30 a.m., along with a representative of the student body posting bail and a lawyer. A large contingent of BJP activists were also present, who jostled and intimidated him. Therefore the judge asked him to be removed to the Baroda Central Jail, where he has been lodged ever since. When the police produced the FIR, two new sections, - 293A and 293B, had been added to it. The case was adjourned till 3:30 p.m. Again the BJP crowd gathered following which the hearing was postponed to 2:30 p.m. the following day, on which day the judge did not turn up. So the student was remanded to another two days in jail, since the next two days were Saturday and Sunday. The student has been lodged with other under trials and has not been ill treated in any way. Students and Staff approach the Vice-Chancellor to submit a memorandum bearing the following two important points: The University must file an FIR against Niraj Jain for disrupting the exams. Extend all legal help to the student in custody. Instead of a response to these demands the Vice-Chancellor wanted an unconditional apology from the staff and the students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, for offending their sentiments tendered to the public. It was rejected by the staff/students body on the grounds that it would be tantamount to accepting that they have committed a wrong, whereas that was patently not the case. No help was forthcoming from the University authorities till the end of the day, except for the Vice-Chancellors contention that an FIR could be lodged by the Dean in his personal capacity, a proposition that was again not acceptable to the students/staff of the Fine Arts Faculty. *11th May 2007 * It was decided by the students that an exhibition dealing with the long history of Erotica in both Indian and Western art would be put up in order to inform the press and the public. This exhibition was set up around 2 to 3 in the afternoon. Many came and visited the exhibition. It was suggested that the staff members leave the campus as the situation was becoming increasingly tense and volatile, but a section of the media would not allow that to happen, following which the staff had to lock themselves into the art-history department. At around 4:00 p.m the Deputy Registrar issued a verbal request that the exhibition be closed down, which the Dean refused to do as it was a decision taken by the students and was a peaceful protest drawing from the academic curriculum. A written order followed, and was received by the Dean and Faculty members, but work on the exhibition carried on. The Pro Vice Chancellor then arrived at the venue, accompanied by some members of the Syndicate of the University. They requested Dr Panikkar to close down the exhibition, then ordered him to do so. When it became clear that the Dean would not bend to their will, they had the exhibition locked. The argument put forward by the Dean was that, since, in spite of the number of times that the students had invoked the help of the University authorities in the matter, and insofar as no help had been extended to them, how could he, as the Dean, be sure that their actions were in the best intentions and for the good of the University? The Dean reiterated that he would stand by the students and staff in the matter. The authorities went ahead with the sealing of the exhibition as well as the Regional Documentation Center. BJP corporators who had come to see the exhibition were very abusive to the women staff, going so far as to say that they would like to see their nude pictures on the wall. A suspension order was pasted on the Dean's Residence door at 10:00 p.m. No reason has been given as to his suspension. As per the local media, the Dean of Management Faculty, professor Maheshwari, has been given charge of the Fine Arts Faculty. Teachers have gone on mass casual leave in protest of the University's decision. Protests and press conferences held in Delhi and Mumbai by the art community and students of various Universities including JNU, New Delhi. Atreyee Gupta firstname.lastname@example.org Sugata Ray email@example.com -- Department of Art History University of Minnesota India: A2/132 Safdarjung Enclave New Delhi 110029 Ph: 919871332479 (M) USA: 338 Heller Hall, 271 19th Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55455 Ph: 612-624-0573 (O) ****************************************************************** To post to H-ASIA simply send your message to: <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu> For holidays or short absences send post to: <firstname.lastname@example.org> with message: SET H-ASIA NOMAIL Upon return, send post with message SET H-ASIA MAIL H-ASIA WEB HOMEPAGE URL: http://h-net.msu.edu/~asia/