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Moral Policing in India reaches new depths

May 15, 2007

A ‘moral’ controversy has been raising its ugly head in Baroda, Gujarat. C. Mohan, a post-graduate student of Fine Arts at M S University in Vadodara was arrested for exhibiting his work on the previous thursday (he is free now). As if that were not enough, the Fine Arts department dean of Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) University, Shivaji Panikkar, went into hiding. All because of so-called right wing activists who are kicking up a fuss over an erotica exhibition.

It says here:

On Friday (last), instead of students, teachers and MSU senate members, it was BJP councillors and senate members (owing to their saffron affiliations) were the ones who called the shots both at MSU main office and Fine Arts department. Meanwhile, Chandramohan continued to be in judicial custody for the third consecutive day, with no one officially coming to his aid from MSU. Additional Senior Civil Judge M J Parashar on Friday deferred the decision on his bail till Monday in a hearing held in Vadodara local court, where Chandramohan is facing serious offences registered by BJP leader Niraj Jain.

Its an erotica art exhibition which they cannot stand to see and do not want anyone to see because of their mistaken assumption that erotica does not belong in Indian culture. Or it is possible that they know that erotica is very much a part of Indian/ Hindu culture, but they are ashamed of their Hindu roots? You can check out this post where the writer has given some samples of ancient Indian erotic art.

The exhibition was ordered to be closed down. The Vice-Chancellor of the University Manoj Soni ordered the closure, but Panikkar refused to obey it and as a result he was suspended. Now he is in hiding. He has the support of the faculty.

Suppression or policing of art in any manner speaks poorly of a society. If a painting is obscene or hurts the sentiments of others, then let the public decide, not political parties. People can always refuse to buy the person’s paintings, or choose not to go to an exhibition. Or they can organise a peaceful protest. But to close down exhibitions, file PIL’s, arrest artists, vandalise art, sack educationists! Its just not acceptable.

An All-India protest in support of the fine arts faculty of MS university was organised yesterday evening.

The Moral Police is a virus that will destroy us
For all those out there who believe that moral policing is justified in the name of being sensitive to the sentiments of others, please remember that this is just the beginning. Today it is an art exhibition that they are protesting against, tomorrow they will arrest a girl on the road because she is wearing something they object to. And each moral terrorist will have his own idea of what artists should paint, how women should behave. Their extreme reaction to a painting exhibition follows in the wake of the Shilpa Shetty incident where the poor girl was condemned because a guy kissed her on the cheek.

This is always how the moral police start, and when people start obeying out of fear, the moral police get drunk with power. They start to intimidate and bully, and invariably misuse their power. Worse, their diktats get more and more stringent, because they want people to disobey, because otherwise they will have nothing to do. Do you really think the political activists are unhappy that they are getting this opportunity to flex their muscles? Ofcourse not! They are dancing with joy at the publicity. They are sure that this way they will get the opportunity to exploit the sentiments of vulnerable people – the average man in this country. Get votes. Get attention.

Once the moral police sink their teeth into our social fabric they will become unbearable and criminal. Because moral policing knows no bounds, its whip lies in the whim of the political party of the day and the mood of the enforcer. Remember what the Taliban did? They destroyed Buddha’s statues because they hurt religious sentiments. There is no limit to what the moral police will do, no depths to which they will not sink, because they have no fear of the law. They become the law.

Please stop them before it is too late.

Some other links on this subject are given below:
Will they blow up Khajuraho? (Indian Express)
The colours of Intolerance ( Hindustan Times)
The chronology of events is given here
A blog devoted to this subject
The MS Univ incident- hindu dharma or religious fanaticism?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2007 11:20 pm

    You are right Nita these miscreants get free publicity. Our news starved news channels jump on any news that makes an interesting story. Who had ever heard of Neeraj Jain, the VHP activist before this mischief of his.

  2. The Renegade permalink
    May 15, 2007 11:54 pm

    Hi Nita,

    Good point made about erotic art being a part and parcel of Indian art, I suppose you did be interested in reading this:

  3. spiritwoman permalink
    May 16, 2007 9:42 am

    Hi Nita,

    Really liked your blog, and more importantly, your spirit. Absolutely agree with what you say about moral policing. As today’s second edit in the Hindu says, “hurting sentiments” has become the new facade for moral policing. I just can’t believe it that the police actually went ahead and registered cases against the student artist from Vadodara and of course, Shilpa Shetty and even Mr Hussain. We must collectively resist this intolerance and raise our voices at as many forums as we can. Thanks for this post, Nita.

  4. May 16, 2007 11:39 am

    Thanks spiritwoman. Good to meet someone with the same outlook on life. 🙂

  5. May 16, 2007 9:08 pm

    I am sorry, maybe I am a bit slow…but I am quite sure you do have a book of religious text called the Karma Sutra in which there is a chapter dedicated to the arts and crafts of erotica and their appropriate applications to everyday life. When did expressing that in 2007 become sinful and vulgar.
    How did we all become so sexually repressed? U know what is so funny? the colonial masters who brought with them their puritan views and ideals have chucked them to the wind and adopted into their societies extreme displays of personal freedom whilst we still wallow in the chains and bondages of our enforced adoptive moral identities….
    So sad, I wish I had seen the artiste’s work. I am so sure I would have liked them

  6. May 16, 2007 9:14 pm

    You have put it perfectly:

    “the colonial masters who brought with them their puritan views and ideals have chucked them to the wind and adopted into their societies extreme displays of personal freedom whilst we still wallow in the chains and bondages of our enforced adoptive moral identities….”

    Adoptive moral identities. Wow. That brilliant Baraje! 🙂

  7. Phantom permalink
    May 20, 2007 1:38 pm

    To true.

    From a culture that gave the world kamasutra, vedas, aurveda, yoga and countless other forms of artisitc and academic expression, we have allowed the suffocating victorian and elizabethian value structure brough to India by the british, to pervade the very thinking and mindset of middle class life in India.

    Funny thing is – the extremely poor and extremely rich in india do not seem to suffer from the inflexible and illlogical bonds of middle class morality.

  8. Prianka Shah permalink
    June 7, 2007 5:26 pm

    I think we ought to think of a university in a different light. Manoj Soni and Neeraj Jain would like to claim elitism and have infact the label and functions of intellectuals and elite but perhaps do not feel they have been into the culture of the elite.

    A more sever and painful problem is are they educated? Just having a degree in Law or Political Science does not qulaify for education as been proved here. They are qualified but not educated. The sanctity of the examination has not been maintained. The police who came along with Jain are equally uneducated and indulge in illegal practices. It was their duty to wait for the exam to get over get the Dean’s permission and then arrest the person with a valid warrant. That all this has been over ruled makes Gujarat perhaps worse than Bihar and UP. So much for Vibrant Gujarat of Modi.

    It will also be an aricle of pride for the goons that both Soni and Vanzara are from the same institute though Vallabh Vidhyanagar comes acoss as an educational shop where degrees are sold. The Vice-Chancellor is said to have a degree from there – the Ph.d. and was working there as a lecturer. The truth is that with this bought elitism the feeling of elitism of Jain, Vanzara and Soni are egotistically not satisfying therefore they have to take up a barbaric ( political incorrectness regretted) and illegal position.

    The damage to the state of Gujarat is immense. With the congress wanting not to take a stand and let Modi die a natural death little will be done by the centre on the issue. The Faculty of Fine arts will probably be closed when the funds are removed. Or this will be a shop where people will be able to sell conventional paintings of Gods, cogessesses and right and left wing ideologues – that will not be art any more but just realistic respresentation.

  9. Pranav permalink
    April 22, 2009 9:51 pm

    EVery saffron clas person doesnt belong to the BJP


  1. M S University incident: Hindu Dharma or Religious Fanaticism? « The Renegade Writings

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