Chennai cops shut down Lalit Kala Akademi show on Aurangzeb

March 7th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by admin  

Chennai, March 7 (IANS) An art show at the prestigious Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) here curated by journalist Francois Gautier was at the receiving end of moral policing when an exhibition on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was shut down. Stating that it had received three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony, police Thursday night burst into the exhibition, shut it down forcibly, took into custody three women associated with the hosting of the exhibition and seized some of the works on display.

The exhibition of 40 paintings, including exceptional miniatures by noted Indian artists, gathered together by Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) were on show at the LKA from March 3.

The show included farhans (edicts issued by Aurangzeb) from the Bikaner museum and other material on Aurangzeb. It also contained two pictures depicting Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple in Gujarat and the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

The organisers said they had the right to freedom of expression and the right to exhibit a show that had travelled all over India.

LKA regional secretary R.M. Palaniappan told the media he “should have screened the exhibits more carefully”.

Joint Commissioner of Police P. Balasubramanian later told the media: “We feared it might create a law and order problem.”

The three women from FACT, Saraswathi (65), Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47), were picked up from the show at about 7.30 p.m. and taken to the police station, where they were held for nearly an hour without being allowed to contact their families or any lawyer.

“The police were rude to us, they asked us whether we were terrorists”, Saraswathi told the media. The women were later released.

Gautier too told the media Chennai police refused to protect the exhibition. “The idea was to show how different the history of India would have been if Dara Shikho, emperor Shajahan’s elder son and preferred heir, had become ruler of India,” he said as he went to the police and explained that his intentions were not to spread any social disharmony, “only to bring history to the people”.

The exhibition had come to Chennai after showing in Delhi and Pune and was to go on till March 9.

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