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Baroda Protest

Capital City Declares Solidarity with Baorda

Hundreds of artists, intellectuals and art lovers came in force to express their solidarity with the artists’ fraternity in Baroda. Johny ML attends the protest meet in Delhi and reports.

Artists, intellectuals, political leaders, media personalities and culturally inclined citizens of New Delhi turned out in large numbers to declare their solidarity with the protesting artist community in Baroda on 14th May at 6 pm at the Lalit Kala Academy Lawns. Thanks to certain reasons the protest meeting was shifted to the fountain near the Pushkin Statue outside the Lalit Kala Academy Gallery building. Artists namely Anjolie Ela Menon, Paramjit Singh, K.S.Radhakrishnan, Jatin Das,Vivan Sundaram, Ram Rahman, Shukla Sawant, Sheila Makhijani, Arpana Caur, Vasudha Thozhur, G.R.Iranna, Jagannath Panda, Subodh Gupta, Sheba Chachi, Manish Pushkale, Inder Salim Tikku, Abhimanue V.G, K.M.Madhusoodhanan, Shantanu Lodh, Manmeet, Mrinalini Mukherjee and so on were present along with so many other young artists and art students who even came all the way from Chandigarh and other satellite cities only to participate in the protest meeting.

Academicians like Geeta Kapur, Kavita Singh, Gayatri Sinha, Parul Dave Mukherjee, Roobina Karode were also present. Film director Kumar Sahni, theatre personality M.K.Raina, photographer Raghu Rai, designer Parthiv Shah, politicians like Sitaram Yechuri, D.Raja, actress Nandita Das and the noted singer Shubha Mudgal were also present for the function. Considerable number of students, visiting foreign artists and foreign media members added to the strength of the protest. The young crowd was expressing their support be cheering the speakers. Despite the presence of the Police force the function went off peaceful and there was a major signature collection done by the activists and volunteers of SAHMAT, an NGO working from the capital city, which also managed the event.

Ram Rahman presented the statement and this was later signed by the crowd. The statement said. “……We artists and art-related professionals, members of university faculties and administrations, and Indian citizens foremost, find this loutish behaviour (of the right wing fundamentalists) intolerable. From these “narrow domestic walls,”, these “dreary desert sands of dead habit,” as Tagore put it, may the people India awake.”

Vasudha Thozhur who was present during the vandalism took place in Baroda said that the state of Gujarat has been living with such realities and now it has reached the vicinity of the artists also. Parul Dave Mukherjee, who was also there as a jury member in Baroda said that the activities of the BJP members was a manifestation of a cultural malaise. Senior artist Vivan Sundaram said that Gujarat has once again taken the lead to show that it is a fascist state. “After the police encounter episode, the fundamentalists have attacked the artists. It is not an attack on individuals. It is an attack on a culture,” Vivan said. Vivan demanded an enquiry committee to be set up for conducting a fair trial on the Baroda incident.

D.Raja of the Communist Party of India said that whatever happened in Baroda was the return of fascism. He asked everyone to come together to oppose and defeat the growing tendencies of fascism. Rajya Sabha member Sitaram Yechuri represented the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and said that he has given a notice in Rajya Sabha on this incident and it would be taken up for discussion in the coming days. He said he and his party members will try to generate an opinion on this issue and a strong move would be undertaken in and by the parliament of India. “India is famous for its diversity. And any one trying to impose uniformity through violent methods or other should destroy the beautiful diversity of this country,” Yechuri said. He said that it is a political move by the fascists to put the country backward. “Any patriotic Indian cannot tolerate this,” he said.

Anjolie Ela Menon said that an eminent artist like M.F.Husain and a budding talent like Chandramohan are targeted. It showed that there is a nefarious design behind this. “We should not allowed the young artists to be encountered,” she said. Ashok Vajpayee seconded her opinion while choosing to speak in Hindi. Shubha Mudgal sang a song, which said that let there be light in the darkened minds. Senior artist Jatin Das also condemned the act of the hooligans and right wing fundamentalists. Nandita Das said that even the color saffron had been taken over by the right wing fundamentalists. “We need to regain our colours back,” Nandita Das said.

There was a bit of Gandhigiri a la Lage Raho Munna Bhai MBBS, the popular film of 2006. As an attempt to tell the BJP leaders and activists get well soon from their mental illness, the artists were requested by Ram Rahman to post, “post cards for Mahatma Gandhi’ to all the BJP leaders and BJP activists. These cards contain the works of eminent artists of India, done as a part of a project curated by Vivan Sundaram for SAHMAT during late 1990s. Hundreds of cards were posted yesterday evening. Shubha Mudgal was the first one to post the card. Ram Rahman said that in the coming weeks more cards would be posted to the right wing activists.


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