Sahmat exhibits vandalism of Husain works

August 25th, 2008 - 3:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS) Broken frames, dislodged pictures and photographs on the floor… that was the “as it is” scene Monday at an exhibition showcasing the works of the eminent painter M.F. Husain that had been vandalised the day before.Refusing to give in to the miscreants, organisers Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat) extended by a day the exhibition held on the lawns of the Vithalbhai Patel House in the heart of New Delhi. The mess that would otherwise have been an organiser’s nightmare was converted into an expression of protest by Sahmat.

Demanding that the culprits be brought to book, the politburo of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said it strongly condemned the attack by “Hindu chauvinist elements on the photographic exhibition”.

“It was a cowardly act. We at Sahmat strongly protest such dastardly acts. All that the exhibition had were reproductions of some of Husain’s works and his own photographs by some eminent photographers,” said Anil Chandra of Sahmat, who was witness to the incident.

“The miscreants, who had thrown pamphlets with ‘Jai Shri Ram Sena’ written on them after having attacked the exhibition, are most welcome to do it again. Our decision to extend the exhibition in the ‘as-it-is’ condition after the attack is just a way to show that we will not give in to the hands of such forces,” Chandra told IANS.

None of the photographs or pictures from the exhibition have been handed over to the police. The exhibition which began Aug 22 and was supposed to end Sunday, was Sahmat’s way of expressing solidarity with the veteran artist whose work was excluded from the India Art Summit at the Pragati Maidan that ended Sunday.

The organisers at Sahmat said the miscreants escaped by the time police arrived.

“But these eight to 10 miscreants must have done their homework well. They were not carrying any weapons but used the chairs lying around to destroy things,” Chandra said.

Hailing Sahmat, Ridhi Bhalla of the Nitanjali Art gallery in the capital said she stood by the organisation in its endeavour.

“It’s time someone stood against such miscreants who have dragged art into murky politics. I salute Sahmat’s attitude,” Bhalla said.

“Do these miscreants who call themselves guardians of religion even understand what religion is? Do they understand what art is? Which painting of Husain’s in Sahmat’s exhibition hurt their sentiments?” asked Ruchika Mehra, an art enthusiast who had visited the exhibition on the first day.

“Without understanding, they go on vandalising art shows and exhibitions which is absolutely condemnable.”

Rued an art teacher, Abhishek Awasthi: “On the one hand we talk about freedom of expression and creativity, about democracy and, on the other, we have such forces trying to impose their narrow beliefs with force. It’s an increasingly intolerant society that we are living in.”

Husain’s portrayal of Hindu goddesses in his paintings has invited the wrath of Hindu radicals.

Asked to comment on Husain’s exclusion from the India Art Summit, organiser Sunil Gautam said: “We as organisers have the highest regard and huge respect for the legendary M.F. Husain.

“The artist himself understands the situation and it is an indirect way of Husain blessing the event. He knows our problems - this is public space and we are exhibiting works worth crores of rupees. I could not expose the show to any kind of risk. It was my duty to safeguard everyone’s interest.”

In a statement from Dubai, the artist who is in self exile said there were 2,500 cases pending against him in various courts across the country and he empathised with the decision of the organisers.

The culture ministry had also issued an official statement Thursday night objecting to Husain’s exclusion from the summit.

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