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Baroda Protest

A Bus Journey to Baroda

Artist Tushar Jog recounts the experience of a long bus journey that he undertook along with many of the Mumbai artists who chose to join the Baroda protest march on 14th May at the Faculty of Fine Arts. There was something different waiting for them.

The local news channels and news papers had been announcing the arrival of our bus carrying supporters from Bombay. A VHP functionary had even gone as far as to demand (on one local TV channel) that the bus not be allowed to enter the city and if it did there would be rioting in the city! All the same the bus took an alternative route, bypassing Baroda and entering the city from the Ahmedabad Express highway. There were no checkpoints it transpired to stop our bus as the University officials had a different plan. Well they could make(or as we have already seen - break)fresh rules…

The VC had issued orders to allow entry only to students with bonafide i-cards.  The denial of entry to artists and alumni and other supporters into the Faculty was again a case in point of the high handedness of the VC and clearly a strategy for thwarting support by the larger art fraternity to the local students. It was a glaring instance the collusion of the University authorities with the VHP goons as just the previous day hordes of ABVP activists were allowed to enter the faculty. This rowdy mob was allowed to jeer, abuse and shout slogans at the students of the faculty who were sitting in a peaceful dharna.

Repeated attempts were made by us to enter the faculty but we were restrained by police and 'security' (some of whom weren't even in uniform). We then decided that we should stage a sit in outside the gate of the Faculty. Just then a person who obviously didn't look like a student of the Fine Art faculty was allowed entry. Angered we stormed the gate demanding that either his i-card be produced or he be expelled. The police stalled and in about ten minutes our shouting was drowned by the slogans "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" (!) and slogans against the Dean Shivji Paniker and Chandra Mohan. A mob of right wing activists (read hooligans) descended on us shoving and pushing. Their slogans were interspersed with abuses and expletives of the worst kind.

The supporters formed a silent chain and stood on the other side of the road, leaving the raving and ranting mob by the gate; hoping the press and police would realize the difference between a decorous and determined protest and lumpen, unthinking vandal demonstration of power and perversion. The mob even had the audacity to climb atop the police van (of course unchecked by the complicit police) and display their banners. After about a quarter of an hour unable to provoke the students in the faculty, they turned their attention on the protestors who had formed a human chain. Their blatant in- your- face aggression and swearing failed to rouse the silent protestors… and even the silent police who chose to just watch on! Finally when the police did decide to act, they rounded off about twenty students and four goons detaining them for 2 hours.
This ratio should perhaps make us happy… for every four of them there are twenty of us!


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