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Home > News > Report

No end to Baroda art students' woes

Binoy Valsan in Baroda | May 17, 2007 10:21 IST

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Students of Maharaja Sayajirao University's faculty of fine arts are in a tight spot following the on campus uproar created by the moral police and the subsequent suspension of dean in charge Shivaji Panikker.

Chandramohan, an art student of the university, was arrested from the campus on May 9 for allegedly depicting Hindu gods and goddesses in "obscene postures." He was released on bail on Monday.

Local Hindu and Christian religious brigades had rated his paintings of Shiv Linga, Goddess Durga and Jesus Christ as highly vulgar and objectionable. A group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists led by Niraj Jain, an advocate and a local VHP leader, had barged into the university campus, manhandled Chandramohan and hurled abuses at the faculty members and other students.

The final year evaluation of the students is yet to be completed. Most of the theory papers are yet to reach the hands of the invigilators as they are kept in the archives room that has been sealed shut at the behest of the university itself.

Moreover, Shivaji Panikker who has been placed under suspension, was the one who was supposed to evaluate four papers -- Modern Indian Art, History of Western Criticism, Modern Indian Art  and Art History Methodology.

"We will be in the lurch this time around as quite a number of us have applied for higher studies in foreign universities. If the results are delayed, we wont be able to enroll for the course," said a final year MA graphics student.

The faculty members are also concerned about the future of the students since most of them have applied for scholarships and other formalities are needed to support their higher studies abroad.

"Now, we have to change all our plans because some hooligan decided to do goondagardi in our campus. Everything is so futile and pointless. We and our faculty members are suffering for no fault of ours," said a final year MA painting student.

Budding artists at the prestigious MS University also lost out on their career front as a result of the moral policing. The students' display pieces, their personal works that are kept for display after internal evaluation gets over, are now locked up and lying unattended in another room of the office building.

"Some of the display works that were kept in the campus were also vandalised by the people who had created the ruckus inside the campus the other day," said a student who is pursuing her PhD in art history at the university.

MS University, Baroda, is one of the few art schools in the country that follows the British art school model of keeping the students' final work on display after the end of the curriculum.

"Since there is a growing interest in art in our society, a number of representatives from art galleries around the country, artists, art promoters and others visit this exhibition. The parents of the students also usually come to see their children's work," said Vasudevan Akkitham, a faculty member of the painting department at the university.

This display serves as a good platform for students in their careers if they are able to impress experts and others who come to the exhibition.

"There are experts in the faculty who understands art, aesthetics and also the social responsibility angle of it. If some people found certain works objectionable, they should have communicated in the proper manner and not like this," added Vasudevan.

Students had spent a considerable amount of money, time and skill to complete their display pieces. But most of them are now dejected since all their efforts have turned futile.

"There are students who have spent huge amount of money for their display pieces. Now all that has sadly gone waste," said Abhiram, a MA final year art history student at the college.

Though university officials and the new dean in charge N Maheswari have reiterated that all these recent developments would not affect the students in any manner, the student and teacher community of the fine art faculty beg to differ.

"This year the results will be delayed considerably. There is no other option. Moreover, the university cannot just rope in anyone to complete the evaluation as it has to be done by experts with deep knowledge and experience in these fields," said Sasidharan Nair, a faculty member of the painting department.

The admission procedure is also likely to be affected this current academic year as pointed out another faculty member.