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Press Trust of India|Mar 18, 2023
AHMEDABAD: The apex decision-making body of the Maharaja Sayajirao (MS) University in Gujarat's Vadodara city has rejected an appeal filed by a former fine arts course student against his rustication over an "objectionable" artwork, an official of the institute said on Wednesday. The student's lawyer said he will take legal recourse and also approach the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to get the decision overturned.
Kundan Kumar Mahato, a first year post-graduate student from the Faculty of Fine Arts, was expelled by the university in May following a controversy over his artworks, which even led to an FIR against him for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. It was alleged by some right-wing outfits that he had made photos of Hindu gods and goddesses by pasting newspaper clippings of different rape incidents in the country.
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In June, Mahato, a native of Bihar, had filed an appeal before the authorities urging them to reconsider their decision as per rules of the MS University Act and give him a chance to present his side of the story, said his lawyer Hitesh Gupta. However, the appeal was rejected by the MSU Syndicate during its meeting on Tuesday. The Syndicate, or Executive Council, is the highest decision-making body of universities in the state. "Mahato's appeal has been rejected with the council upholding the university's decision to rusticate him," said senior Syndicate member Jigar Inamdar.
On learning about the decision, Gupta said he will knock on the doors of the Gujarat High Court and also write to the PMO and the President seeking revocation of Mahato's rustication. "The artwork in question was not a part of a public exhibition. Someone took its photos and made them viral. My client's intention was never to hurt anyone's sentiments. That artwork was a private matter between the student and his examiner and it does not fall into the category of indiscipline as defined in the MSU Act," maintained Gupta.
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After the photos went viral in May, activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Hindu Jagran Manch and some other right-wing outfits staged a protest on the campus of the faculty, alleging Hindu gods and goddesses were depicted in an "objectionable" manner in some of the artworks made by students (Mahato's name came to light later). The viral photos suggested the artworks were displayed in an exhibition held at the faculty on May 5 as part of the exam assessment exercise.
Days later, based on a complaint given by local ABVP activist Jayvirsinh Raulji, Vadodara's Sayajigunj police had registered an FIR against Mahato. He was booked under Indian Penal Code sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion) and 298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings of any person).
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