Shiv Sena activists on Thursday attacked an exhibition of paintings by acclaimed painter M F Husain in New Delhi, damaging two of his works on display.
The activists managed to enter the art gallery at the famous India International Centre, despite a heavy police presence at the venue and prior information of Shiv Sainiks planning to attack the exhibition.
Two Sainiks entered the hall in the guise of visitors to watch the 'India in the Era of Mughals' exhibition at around 4 pm They shouted slogans against the artist and damaged the frames of two paintings.
One of the damaged paintings depicted Emperor Akbar and was priced at Rs 1.5 lakh. The second painting suffered minor damage as police overpowered them when they tried to damage it.
The activists shouted slogans like Balasaheb (Bal Thackeray) Zindabad, Shiv Sena Zindabad and M F Husain Murdabad besides distributing pamphlets, which threatened to disrupt any exhibition of Husain in the country.
They were later taken to the police station.
However, IIC officials said they will not close the exhibition. "If the police want us to close down the exhibition, we will do it. But they have to give it in writing," they said.
The pamphlet released by Mangat Ram Munde, Delhi unit president of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Sena, Shiv Sena's students wing, alleged that, "Husain has made many obscene paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. So we would not allow him to exhibit his paintings anywhere in the country," the pamphlet said.
The attack on the 12-day exhibition comes a day before its closure on Friday.
The exhibition ran into rough weather a few days ago with the organisers deciding to suspend the display for a day last Saturday after curator Dolly Narang and the IIC received threat calls from the Bajrang Dal.
Narang, as well as the Centre, received threat calls, SMSs and letters on December 20 and Wednesday from Delhi, Mumbai and Pune asking that the exhibition be closed.
Four men claiming to be Bajrang Dal activists barged into the room of IIC Secretary Venugopal and allegedly threatened him with dire consequences if they continued with the exhibition.
However, they defied the threat calls and decided to go ahead with the exhibition later.
The exhibition, the first major exhibition of Husain's works in Delhi after a gap of about 20 years, have 20 graphical prints of the paintings that are permanently put up at Fida Museum in London. These works are a tribute to the history of Indian cinema.
The 92-year-old artist, described by Forbes Magazine as the 'Pablo Picasso of India', is currently in self-exile in Dubai after a series of protests against him for his depiction of Hindu Goddesses.