Saffron Brigade as Art Critics

Culture and Media, Politics

I haven’t seen too much discussion about this on the blogs, I guess people get tired of getting hate mail from the SS (Saffron Sympathizers). I am assuming most people have heard of the arrest of MS University Art student, Chandra Mohan who seems to have simultaneously offended the self-appointed protectors of Hindu and Christian sentiments, with his MFA thesis paintings:

A group of VHP activists led by Niraj Jain, an advocate and a local VHP leader, barged into the university campus at around 3.30 pm on Wednesday, when the internal evaluation of the student works was being held. They allegedly manhandled Mohan and hurled abuses at the faculty members and other students. They had tipped off the local police who were soon at the spot and took Mohan into custody, as he was a threat to the secular atmosphere of Baroda’.

Yes, you heard right, the saffron shirts barge into a university examination, not open to the public, rough up people, and the victim gets arrested.

The dean, Shivji Panniker would like to file a complaint against the attack, instead he has been suspended by the vice chancellor of the university who apparently apologized to the attacker. The students have responded by arranging an exhibition of religious art, and the faculty has released a press release in support of Chandra Mohan and the dean.

The latest news is that Chandra Mohan has been denied bail, and the Rev Immanuel Kant (does the man know he shares his name with an Enlightenment philosopher?) is planning a rally to protest Chandra Mohan’s depiction of Jesus.

I haven’t found any images of the offending paintings, but MS University has one of the top Art departments in the country, and from what I have seen of the work of their students and faculty, its a well deserved reputation. So its hard for me to believe that the student’s work is simply crude and aimed at being offensive. Goddess-Durga-E Still, I would be willing to accommodate Jain’s assessment that these paintings are offensive if I could actually believe that the man is a competent art critic. But given similar brouhahas in the past, I am not so sure. Remember the whole anti-Hussein protest last year? Here is an example of one of the paintings that was being protested. The caption on the web page says: Goddess Durga in the nude having sexual intercourse with a tiger. I looked at this picture for a long time and just couldn’t see it as such, a rather tired reference to Cubism, but intercourse? Nope. I guess you need to have a dirty mind to see it. (See the whole series and what is supposedly objectionable about them here)

Update: The Fine Arts faculty at MS University has a blog with updates and links.

2nd Update: Here is a video of the incident (via Chapati Mystery)