Insanity in Baroda

I started this post with

There are nutjobs everywhere. Every religion has them. Hindu right-wing nutjobs, Muslim right-wing nutjobs and Christian right-wing nutjobs…

and went on to talk of a Christian University which expelled a student for making a gay film

The poor Hindu nutjobs were feeling left out. So they upped the ante – significantly. Forget expulsion – a BJP leader storms into an exhibit of student works at Fine Arts Faculty, M.S. University, in Baroda and has a student arrested. Final year Masters student Chandramohan was arrested for offending the religious sensibilities of both Hinduism and Christianity.

So, the rest of the students protested brilliantly – by holding an exhibition on the history of erotica in Hindu and Western art. I mean, come on people, have you not seen temple sculpture?? Devas are happily copulating – it is fantastic!!! A celebration of life, for god’s sake (or for God’s sake?) It is one of the things that I think is so cool about temple architecture – that it deals with real life. Of course this exhibit is shut down as well.

Artists around the country are showing their solidarity with Chandramohan and the Dean of the college, who refused to back down (you go, Dean!).

  • The chronology is detailed here.
  • Read Ranjit Hoskote and Gulammohammed Sheikh’s thoughts here.
  • And the images that caused all of this are here and here.

Here’s my way of giving these right-wing nutjobs the bird – an image by another beleaguered artist – M. F. Husain.

Husain

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  • Cowardly Lioness

    Oh fantastic post! I read a new expression in the Economist this week that discusses a cool word in cultural parlance “wingnuts” (fanatics on the far left or right)!

    The only basis of protest against free expression has been the sedition – I despise this spurious notion that is bandied about so easily – why don’t other incredibly disturbing statistics incite violence?

    I for one would be more empathetic of people who are ready to riot for more valid causes – how about the fact that 47% of Indian women are illiterate?

  • Rational Human

    First, I completely agree with an (almost) absolute right to free speech and expression (the limits being slander, and shouting “fire” in a crowded theater)

    Second, I condemn all the narrow minded, liliput brained, lily livered cowards who were brave enough to beat up a student who they felt ‘insulted their religion’

    Third, and finally, I hold in utter contempt the protestors who were “brave” enough to take a stand against this “Hindu fundamentalism” but show a craven indifference to far more pervasive Islamic and Christian fundamentalism in India.

    Where is your outrage when Muslim men can divorce their wives over cell phones? Where is the shock when the Satanic verses was first banned in India (and is still banned)? Where are the street protests against delaying the Da Vinci Code? Where are these art shows depicting the Prophet Mohammed [blessings and peace be upon him- except if you’re a non-muslim in which case, regular or extra crispy?]

    This pathetic double standard in India on how extremism of Hinduism and “other” religions are treated is ALMOST as bad as the supression of free-speech itself. And to the BJP MLA- shame on you! Why do you lower my religion to the level of the others?!

  • Cowardly Lioness

    @Rational Human

    I empathise with your frustration at the double standards but the fact is people need to make a start in their defense of free expression.

    It is really unfortunate that several “activists” are minted when their own backyards are imperiled but that is human nature and we all can’t be Zolas accusing everybody all the time.

    It is natural and sensible for people to throw their heft behind causes close to their heart and where they can make the most impact. I think you are right to expect people who truly care about free expression to be outraged at every travesty but then I really doubt if they can make as much of an impact if they marginalised the self-interested clowns 🙂

    Moral absolutism can be as paralysing as apathy and I for one would prefer pseudo-activism than an all-or-nothing stance that may leave poor Chandramohan languishing in jail!

  • Rational Human

    @Cowardly Lioness
    I just find it interesting that Chandramohan was brave enough to paint a naked Saraswati in support of Hussain but not quite brave enough to say, sketch a cartoon Mohammed.
    Given there was protest about both the Hussain and the Mohammed (though , as expected, the latter was more violent, and actually had a minister offering a reward to murderers)

    I guess Chandramohan either connected more with Hussain and said “screw the Danes, I love Hussain”, or he was too afraid of one community to do the sketches of their religious figure!

    People who choose to not defend their freedoms vigilantly – even (especially?_) when they find the protagonists repugnant, should expect those freedoms to wither and die. – a la’ Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”. The Indian intelligentsia seems to blithely ignore non-Hindu transgressions- a dangerous double standard

  • Cowardly Lioness

    @Rational Human

    Chandramohan is an artist – his inspiration is sancrosanct and I really think reading religious slightings into his art is imposing political correctness into what is essential a profoundly personal form of self-expression… Chandramohan and it’s ridiculous to even speculate but well I simply can’t resist was painting with a Hindu inspiration and upbringing – we often take liberties with people and ideas that are our own than alien…

    It is natural that Hindu images will figure more prominently in artistic images since it is a religion that encourages idol-worship and iconography more explicitly than Islam where the written word is venerated and idol-worship is explicitly prohibited. So there is a cultural and historical basis for the ease with which Hindu images are appropriated and I for one am proud of their potency!

    You are right to be upset that the intelligentsia is blithely ignoring non-Hindu transgressions but no one is infallible and I really think it is an extreme position to expect freedoms to wither and die if they are not vigilantly guarded – they are inalienable rights and even an imperfect fight to protect them is at least tinged with nobility 🙂

  • Hypocrite Hater

    In the past few years we have seen our Indian painters create massive audiences worldwide, getting upto a crore and more for their art and partly due to this, the new generation of artists are willing to go to any lengths. This is a perfect example.

    A painter like M.F. Hussain paints hindu gods and goddesses in the nude and nobody says or does a thing ? I would like to ask Mr.Hussain why doesnt he try and paint the Prophet Mohammed along with his wives nude. probably because he would get a fatwa on his head.

    Every artist should have artistic freedom, true but then it should not offend any religions sensibilities. I ask these very same artists who do all this crap on the name of artistic freedom, ” Why dont any of you ever paint your own mother and father in the nude or in any other “artistically free” (read:objectionalble) manner ?” Why does your artistic temperament or freedom go out the window when it comes to your own family ? is this not hypocrisy that you can offend someone else but not your self in the name of artistic freedom ?

  • Cowardly Lioness

    @Hypocrite Hater

    The prices Indian artists are paid are pittance compared with international artists who create some really questionable pieces – Damien Hirst gets millions and is represented by Larry Gagosian no less for immersing dead animals in formaldehyde!

    However why should we grudge people their ability to make money if it is not illegal? If there are people willing to pay and are interested in the art then it seems much more objectionable to deny people their livelihood than live with different standards which is really the basis of subjectivity that is art’s raison d’etre!

  • Rational Human

    @ Hypocrite Hater
    I have no issue with any person (and artists have NO special dispensation- Cowardly Lioness) saying/painting whatever they want. The absolute last thing we should do is legislate or limit the innate freedoms of thought and speech that are fundamental rights.

    There is little doubt that the pictures (much like the Danish cartoons) are in poor taste. However, each of us has the right to NOT see them or think about them.

    The one thing I do NOT want to do is to glorify the artist or his buddies (though standing up to political pressure is a gutsy act)- in much the same way that I wouldn’t want to glorify the Neo-Nazis (and frankly find them, and everything they believe in abhorrent)but I would never try to limit what they can say.

    What I find troubling is the celebrity accorded to these dregs of humanity trying to shock (both US and Indian). We should ignore these pathetic losers who have to find ‘inspiration’ in tearing down the good and the great

  • http://iamyuva.wordpress.com/about Yuva

    yes their nutjobs everywhere but iam worried since they are in government.

    its horrible.. i cannot understand, when bgrade movies opening wherever why target art students…!! art always had opening explaination… history & temple is evidance.

    if someone is storming & protesting then still may be ok (they are exercise freedom of experssion) but Its shocking that someone is arrested for painting..!!

  • http://www.themaanga.blogspot.com Nilu

    May I please borrow Rational Human, Cowardly Lioness et al for a while?

  • Shripriya

    I know there is a reason I sometimes just shut up and let people argue amongst themselves. 🙂

    @ Cowardly Lioness and Rational Human – I belie one should be able to paint a naked Saraswathi and a naked Mohammad. I find neither distasteful. But even if I do, tough crap.I think the issue is that Chandramohan is in India and he’s being punished, so people have taken up his cause . I certainly hope that they would do the same if he had painted Mohammad.

    @ Hypocrite Hater – I don’t know why Hussain doesn’t paint the Prophet and his wives. I just know that he has done more to promote Hindu gods than many Hindu painters. If some of them are nude, so be it. As you can see, I posted one of his “offensive” images here as a show of support. I think punishing a ninety year old man and not allowing him to come back home (for fear of his life) is ridiculous.

    @ Yuva – yeah, sadly the insane are mostly in government.

    @ Nilu – You’ll have to ask them if you can borrow them. The question is why do you want them? They probably don’t know that you will borrow them only to make fun of them. Poor things…

  • http://tamilpunkster.blogspot.com megha

    Rofl @ Cowardly Lioness and Rational Human. I’m bringing the popcorn for this. Heh.

  • Rational Human

    @Shripriya

    Chandramohan’s (or any other artist’s) right to paint anything at all is NOT in doubt. There can be no debate on this in a society that values the freedom of expression. His arrest is wrong and should be(and has been) condemned

    But the Mohammad protests occurred in India too… And the “artistic” community never saw that as a threat to the freedom of expression. In fact the Indian journalistic community studiously neglected to reproduce those. Today’s “defenders of freedom of expression” are highly selective and that is reprehensible.

  • Cowardly Lioness

    @Shripriya

    Excellent point about Hussein! I really feel terrible about how so many things devolve to vandalism and violence in our very volatile public space- they were breaking the homes of the beleagured Indian cricket team after the poor showing in the World Cup and now artists – if people would only take tangible travesties like hunger, poverty and illiteracy as personally as cricket and art I think India will achieve so much more…(oh yes freedom of expression is a critical right before anyone jumps on my gentle dreams for my great nation!)

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  • Shripriya

    @ Rational Human – I completely and totally agree with your last point. Your argument was also articulated by Vir Sanghvi. Here.

  • http://mumbaigirl.net mumbaigirl

    I agree with you. Whether or not Hindu Gods have been painted nude in the past, whether or not Hussain’s or Chandramohan’s paintings have artisitic merit, whether or not the cartoons depict Mohammed in a way that Muslims don’t like-they all have a right to be published and painted. We can choose to like/not like the work, and criticise it as vehemently as we want, that is our freedom of expression. Our “sentiments” are always being hurt these days it seems.

  • Upnishad

    You guys are funny…really. You say that Chandramohan can paint Hindu/Christian Gods nude or as per his perverted mind choses to…thats his Freedom of Expression. I agree with you completely. The same fundamental of Freedom of Expression gives the people the right to kick Chandramohan’s perverted ASS ! You so called pseudo-secularists have changed the definition of Secularism. For you, secularism means ‘Hindu-Bashing’. You condemn what happened after Godhra incident…nobody even thinks about what happened on the Godhra Station. Democracy is not weakness. People in democracy do get angry and retaliate. If muslims chose to burn hindus travelling in trains, they need a serious problem. Now the entire world has recognized that the muslims do have serious problem.
    So, please re-program your narrow minds…think before its too late.

  • Shripriya

    @Upanishad – clearly you don’t understand the law. Beating someone is not the same as writing something or drawing something. When you, as you say “kick… ass”, you are violating the other person’s rights and the law. On the other hand, drawing, writing, art, film, sculpture, is about individual expression and that’s a fundamental freedom. Get it now?

    And by the way, this is not about Hindu or Muslim. I believe the cartoons of the Prophet should be freely circulated as well – even if the Muslims hate it. That’s what called freedom of expression.

  • Upnishad

    Shripriya,
    I agree with your idea on Prophet’s cartoons. One more thing, why is that Hussain always draws inspiration from naked Indian Goddesses ? he seems unable to draw an iota of inspiration from a naked ordinary muslim. Another pseudo-secularist Shashi Tharoor explains this in his article by arguing that its completely unacceptable for Muslims to depict prophet in any painting or drawing. This is really funny…for him (and many other pseudo secular(Hindu Bashing) Indians out there) paintings of naked Hindu Goddesses are a form or art but the same thing with any Muslim / Islamic symbolism is a taboo and we respect that.
    This is so nonsensical that I even dont want to condemn this.

    Sorry I dont buy that.

  • Hypocrite Hater

    Shripriya,

    If you support artistic freedom in all its forms then lets see you post the Prophet Mohammed cartoons just as you posted the M.F Hussain painting…… what say ???

  • Shripriya

    @HH (Hypocrisy Hater) – get real! This from someone who can’t use their own name or email address. Ha ha. What a joke.

    And I had a blog before – too bad you weren’t there (in your real or fake identity) to know whether I posted those or not. I’m all about being timely with my posts. So, your loss.

    People who don’t even have the guts to blog under the own name/identity lose all rights to challenge anyone to do anything.

  • Upnishad

    If you are pointing at me, Upnishad is a real name(and a Hindu name, so start your song). And you dont dictate my rights. I earned them just like you did. Why are you so angry now ? did I say something which sounded like TRUTH ?

  • Shripriya

    No, no, Upanishad. I was pointing at Hypocrisy Hater. Not you. I said “HH”. I will update that in my comment.

    To that point, I don’t dictate anyone’s rights. But no one dictates mine either.

  • Rational Human

    To the general pathetics (and it’s pretty clear to the rest of us who you are) who seem to be unable to grasp the crux of the debate, let me reiterate for one LAST time.

    It’s about FREEDOM & LIBERTY!! The freedom to publish what you want, paint what you want, and say what you want. And the freedom to choose not to publish, not to say and not to paint what you don’t want to.

    If Shripriya decides she WANTS to post a Muhammad cartoon, more power to her. If she decides she DOESN’T WANT to post one, she’s just exercising her FREEDOM again. This is what LIBERTY is about!

    So for the miserable anonymous who are either too dense to get it or too obstinate to realise this, get a life of your own and stop messing with our liberty!

  • Shripriya

    I turned off comments on this post for a day because I got an email from a regular reader that I was leaving it open for the “crazies who don’t get basic logic”, especially since the post was two months old already.

    However, I learned you can’t prevent the crazies and they pollute the rest of my blog instead.

    Upanishad, this is not aimed at you at all 🙂

    SO, to all my **regular readers** and those who are subscribed to this thread – apologies but the comments are back on. Please feel free to come here and turn off the email to receive follow-up comments. Also, please don’t bother arguing with people who don’t get logic. I will be ignoring comments on this post and I hope you will too.

  • HYpocrite Hater

    [Admin Note: I moved this comment from where the poster had posted it (cluttering it up that thread) to this post, where he probably wanted it.]

    Ahh the blogging under her own Name Courageous One has stopped all comments on that post…Nice…now we all know the meaning of Hypocrisy

  • Upnishad

    Shripriya, by blocking the comment, what are you trying to do ? Let the debate go on…let people talk about this. You started the thread so you should have courage of facing the music (oops…I am talking like you now). Recently, Taslima Nasreen was attacked in Hyderabad by some fundamentalists, not a single bloody pseudo-secular came in defense of Taslima. The same pseudo-secular people very vocal against the people who protested against Hussain and Chandramohan perversion. I respect Hussain as an artist. But there are ways of expressing your art. There are decent ways of doing so. And I request you all to calibrate your attitude and reprogram your brain. Secularism is NOT Hindu-Bashing. Its a state of mind which demands equality from all fundamentalism.

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  • http://www.santaferanch.com/category/santafe.western_decor.western_artwork/ Western Artwork

    I myself will not watch such a film! lol, I mean brokeback mountain is enough, and this one coming from an amateur director will be really… fluid! 😀