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Baroda Protest

What Happened in Fine Arts Faculty, Baroda? Baroda correspondent gives a day by day account ont what happened in the Fine Arts Faculty, M.S.University, Baroda.

9th May 2007

A fine morning in the faculty. Students are enthusiastic about their display of works and the teachers are doing rounds to assess the works. Exam and evaluation work in progress.

At around 3:30 in the afternoon, Niraj Jain, a local BJP leader storms into the Faculty of Fine Arts. He has a section of the media with him, and soon after he 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. He did his BFA 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. It seems strange that the University authorities take a very lethargic and callous attitude towards such intrusions in the faculty affairs.

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 orders that the offending five works be taken down and sealed. This was communicated to the Vice Chancellor, and the sealing process begins. 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 VHP 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 VHP 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:

  1. The University must file an FIR against Niraj Jain for disrupting the exams.
  2. 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. When it is a case involving the University, the argument of the Vice Chancellor sounded so strange.

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 cooperators 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.


12th May 2007

Students, staff, alumni and other well-wishers of the Faculty on dharna on campus, to be continued till “justice is seen to”


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