Fear has enveloped the artistic community in Baroda after the arrest and subsequent release of student artist Chandra Mohan. Everyone is forced to think twice before beginning a piece of work so as to ensure that they are not, in any way, violating the code of conduct thrust upon them by the city's moral brigade.
"What happened on the Maharaja Sayajirao University campus was deliberate and not at all spontaneous as claimed. They are saying that artists have the freedom to express but not in the public domain. Then what is the use of that freedom," asked renowned painter Sreedharan Nair.
He is also of the opinion that an artist should always be given the right to express and interpret religious symbols and icons in a secular space like the Faculty of Fine Arts.
"It is not as if the artist is exhibiting his work in a sacred space like a temple or any other place of worship," he added.
Sasidharan Nair, another well-known artist and a member of the teaching faculty at the MS University told rediff.com that the actions initiated by the university officials have been extremely unfortunate.
"The members of the teaching faculty have decided to adopt a mode of total non co-operation with the university from the date of re-opening, which is June 14. The Baroda artists' community is always at the forefront in social activities and now we are being accused of corrupting society. This is totally unacceptable," he said.
Anju Chathurvedhy, whose wife is an artist and an alumna of the Faculty of Fine Arts said, "The greatest disadvantage
is that we are pitted against a group of people which is totally unaware of the aesthetics of art and who understand only the language of fist fights."
Vasudevan Akkitham, an active member of the Baroda art community and a faculty member of MS University told rediff.com that Shivaji Panikker is a man who commands the respect of the students and has always stood by their side.
He also expressed deep regret and anguish that the internal evaluation of the students was disrupted without any real reason, thereby putting their career and future at stake.
"The students' works are evaluated by a panel of external examiners, which accounts for 60 percent of their marks. Only 40 percent is awarded by the internal faculty. First of all, barging into the evaluation hall without permission is illegal. Then, they also had the student arrested and manhandled in the presence of police. The university has not
taken any steps to help him. The usual procedure is that the university has a panel of legal experts and they should have moved his bail application," he said.
His wife, Maneesha Doshi, who is also an alumnus of the university condemned the serious of outrageous incidents unleashed against the artist community in Baroda post Chandra Mohan's arrest last week.
"Hinduism is an extremely tolerant and broadminded religion. It is extremely sad that certain people seem bent on narrowing it down for their personal gains," said Alok Bal, a Baroda-based artist and also an alumni of MS University.
He points out that artists are not bound by any religion and should be given the freedom to express their ideas.
"The general message conveyed in Chandra Mohan's controversial works seems to be about life or creation. The recent events have induced a great deal of fear into the minds of artists and this is not a healthy sign since it will hamper their creativity," points out Jagannath Mahapath Rao, also a Vadodara-based artist.
"Though similar incidents took place in Surat, Mumbai and other places, this is the first time it has happened in Vadodara. It is extremely unfortunate and painful. Politicians should not interfere in the creative space of free-thinking artists," said Palak Sanpui, another artist.
He pointed out that Chandra Mohan issue is being equated to MF Husain who was also targeted by the moral enforcers. However, he added that the latter is an established artist while the former is still a sudent who was
He also pointed out the recent chain of events could generate an unhealthy vibe among the vibrant artist community in Vadodara.
"Hindu philosophy is extremely dynamic, unlike what is propagated by these religious outfits," said KK Sathiesh, an artist who recently moved to Vadodara.
"Hinduism also supports charvagha darshnam, a concept that totally negates the existence of God. It seems these people have identified artists as obstacles in their path of creating a twisted and oppressed society according to their whims and fancies. This explains the recent chain of events in the city," he said.