Press Trust of India|Aug 22, 2023
‘Attack on this country’: MSU Baroda’s Fine Arts alumni condemn violence, demand probe
Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda expelled a student for an ‘objectionable' painting displayed in an exhibition held on May 5.
NEW DELHI: Maharaja Sayajirao University's Faculty of Fine Arts alumni have demanded immediate action against the mob who attacked students and teachers, and an investigation into the real matter conducted by an independent body including elected representatives from the student body of the faculty as well as alumni. They also demanded security for the campus.
“We, the Alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts, would like to bring to your notice our condemnation of the violence committed by a mob on our Alma Mater. We also oppose the assault and rustication of one of our students and the lack of action taken against the individuals who violated our institution and assaulted a current student,” said a statement from the alumni.
The alumni statement pointed out to the disruption of the exam process, assault on a student, vandalism of the public property as well as his artwork, and physical and verbal threats to students and staff of the university on May 5.
The alumni explained that the student in question was not a part of the outgoing batch. The images in question were presented as part of the confidential examination process conducted on May 1, five days before the public display was to be conducted, that is, May 6. These were subsequently not accepted as part of the submission and hence immediately taken down. No such work was intended by any means for public display, as students and teachers have repeatedly attested. Despite this, acts of violence were committed in broad daylight, it said.
"Attack on the country"
“This kind of attack should be alarming for all of us who are concerned about the cultural fabric and the democratic ethos of our country; for art students, residents, and citizens of this country at large,” the statement said.
The organised disruption was carried out one day before the opening of the event, which itself raises questions about whether this was indeed a conspiracy to attack and defame the institution and a media stunt used for the advancement of the political careers of the leaders, the alumni statement argued.
The investigation committee on the other hand appears to be looking for individuals to accuse and punish in the student body or teaching staff, rather than focusing on investigating the unlawful disruption of the examination process, it said.
Safety of students, educational institutions
The alumni of Fine Arts demanded action against a syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela and the leaders of the mob who attacked the students and staff. It said that the safety of students, staff, and educational institutions is important and explained how people of Vadodara take pride on the city for being reputed for its safety.
Contribution of Faculty of Fine Arts
The Faculty of Fine Arts has contributed tremendously to the cultural fabric of the city. The annual display during which we open our doors to the general public so that we can make art more inclusive for all audiences, it being part of our annual contributions. Our faculty also hosts the Fine Arts Fair and Garba and is renowned the world over for having such a multi-dimensional model of arts education, the statement said.
The Faculty of Fine Arts has the most internationally and nationally recognised practitioners and scholars, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardees to its credit, some of whom include K. G. Subramanyan, Jyoti Bhatt, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Dhruv Mistry, Ratan Parimoo, Vasudevan Akkitham, and Nasreen Mohamedi, to name but a few, it added.
“An attack such as this is nothing but an attack on this country and its democratic ethos,” it said.
“Stand in solidarity”
“We believe that the student Kundan Yadav's right to education has been violated by the decision taken by a syndicate of which people like Mr. Hasmukh Vaghela and their supporters are still sitting members, despite having breached the University Code of Conduct and the law in broad daylight. We condemn this decision, demand that it gets revoked, and stand in solidarity with him,” the alumni statement further said.
The alumni also demanded a copy of the reports of the investigation of the fact-finding committee. It also attached a form to fill to “stand in solidarity” with the alumni.
It seemed absurd to the alumni to even imagine that anyone could find the images of the artwork that were circulated offensive enough to commit such great crimes in the name of any religion or religious sentiments. It found that there is a profound irony reflected in the fact that the members of the mob claimed to be more outraged about images of female deities than the issues the images were trying to represent.
On May 12, a student of the Faculty of Fine Arts was expelled by the authorities for an alleged ‘objectionable' painting displayed in an exhibition held on May 5 as part of exam assessment which led to activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad ABVP), Hindu Jagran Manch and some other right-wing outfits staging a protest on the campus of the faculty, as per a PTI report. MSU Vice Chancellor Vijay Kumar Srivastava had constituted a nine-member fact finding committee to investigate the matter and submit its report after finding the facts of the same, a university statement had said, according to the PTI report.
However, according to the alumni of fine arts faculty of the university, no "objectionable" work was displayed in an exhibition and no exhibition was held on May 5. "The mob did not find the work they had come looking for on-campus since it was not meant for public display," it said.
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