Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ire, indifference after closure of 'objectionable exhibition'

Chennai, March 7 : Anger and indifference are the two main reactions expressed here Friday following Thursday's closure of an "objectionable exhibition" organised by French journalist and political commentator Francois Gautier at the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA).

The exhibition claimed to "expose the misdeeds against Hinduism during the Mughal period".

Following Muslim protests, the exhibition of paintings and reproductions of Arabic and Persian documents alluding to destruction of Hindu shrines at the LKA here since Monday was closed down to "prevent a law and order situation".

"We had no other option but to close it down. Some Muslims objected to it citing wrong inferences drawn from Arabic texts which could not be independently deciphered by anyone here," Rm Palaniappan, the secretary of the Chennai LKA told IANS.

"We requested the removal of some objectionable materials - including a few illustrations of temples being pulled down during the era of Mughal emperor Aurangazeb - thrice as their display is against our rules.

"Our facility is purely meant for showcasing contemporary art. When the representatives of Francois Gautier refused to heed our requests, we had no other option but to close it down after a police complaint.

"Since we wanted to prevent a law and order situation here developing out of an objectionable exhibition, we had to pull the shutters down," Palaniappan said.

A furious Hindu Front leader Rama Gopalan has a different version.

"The incident makes it clear that we are being prevented from publicly exhibiting historically documented facts. The exhibition of Gautier - which had been shown successfully elsewhere in India earlier - was vandalised by Islamic goons and closed down by the LKA officials with police protection to pander to the crude tastes of the minority community.

"If persons like M.F. Hussain can be allowed to openly denigrate Hindu deities in the name or art in similar institutions in India, can't an impartial foreign commentator be permitted to depict facts per se? In a nutshell, this is simple and straight fascism," Gopalan told IANS.

"The press has twisted facts to fit into a pattern that suits saffron apologists," said Commissioner of Police Nanchil Kumaran.

Director General of Police P. Rajendiran said: "Notwithstanding what my colleague (Kumaran) said, the simple fact is that a law and order situation has been averted. No news, in our opinion, is good news."

Artists view the matter differently.

"It is a very sad thing to happen. Art is something where there is total freedom of expression. Why are they making religion such a big issue? It is totally unfair.

"There is nothing obscene in exhibiting Mughal paintings. Look at the west, which has given artists complete freedom. If such things happen in a democratic country like ours, what can you say," said leading contemporary artist Kanchan Chander.

"There have been protests. We protested against politicians who targeted M.F. Husain branding his works anti-national, but nothing really came of them. I am a Hindu, but I respect every religion," Chander added.

Gautier was unavailable for comment.

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