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India: Art exhibition vandalised, artist attacked

22 December 2016


On 8 December 2016, right-wing activists from two different groups stormed the fourth annual Jaipur Art Summit, damaged paintings, attacked and injured a painter, and stole a painting in protest of it featuring semi-nude women, reported India Today on 8 December 2016.

“It happened so fast. Painting is your heart, it is your baby. It took me three months to make that painting, but they damaged it,” painter Radha Binod Sharma told the newspaper. “This is very sad. Artists cannot work like this. I do beauty. I do humanity. The painting is not obscene or vulgar. It is titled ‘Anubhav’, and was displayed in Ahmedabad [the largest city in the Indian state of Gujarat] earlier, but nobody objected.”


The attack
The attackers came from Hindu right-wing group Rahtriya Hindu Ekta Manch (RHEM), whose leader, Pandit Vijay Shankar Pandey, was arrested shortly after the attack, and women’s organisation Lal Shakti, whose leader, Hemlata Sharma, was wanted at the time by the police, who stated she was hiding from authorities, reported The Indian Express on 9 December 2016.

“A few women, accompanied by some men, came in a vehicle … Some purported media persons who had cameras with them arrived separately … They went to the basement where the painting was displayed,” arts summit founder and director Shailendra Bhatt told the newspaper. “It was all pre-planned and happened very quickly.”

According to two volunteers at the summit, when Hemlata Sharma came to the gallery she asked for the painter, sounding like she had some “genuine” questions for him. However, once the painter arrived, she immediately shouted: “What sort of painting is this?” She then pulled down the painting and pushed the artist. As she did that, the other men around her warned the painter that he shouldn’t touch her.

A video aired on India Today’s news programme shows the altercation the volunteers described. The painter reportedly suffered minor injuries to his wrist and leg as he was trying to protect his work.


Attack last year
This is not the first time that an artwork was attacked at the art summit. In December 2015, half an hour after a sculpture of a cow, entitled ‘Divine Bovine’, was flown 15 metres above the venue by hot air balloon, police arrived demanding it be taken down.

Police were alerted of the incident by right-wing Hindu groups who alleged their religious feelings were hurt by the piece. Police arrested the two artists. After public outrage on the conduct of the police, the artists were released with an apology and the officers in question were suspended.

The annual art summit, which began in 2013, ran from 7-11 December 2016 and featured more than 400 artworks from 25 countries. The event takes place in Jaipur City, the capital city of the state of Rajasthan in northern India.


Photo: Jaipur Art Summit website


Sources

» The Indian Express – 15 December 2016
Protests against art show our laws encourage a free reign to feeling ‘offended’

» Artforum – 12 December 2016
Right-wing activists protest Jaipur Art Summit, attacking artist Radha Binod Sharma

» The Indian Express – 9 December 2016
Jaipur Art Summit: Painting ‘vandalised’, artist ‘injured’

» India Today – 8 December 2016
Semi-nude paintings vandalized at Jaipur art summit, painter thrashed

» India Today – 8 December 2016
Right-wing group Rashtriya Hindu Ekta Manch vandalized Jaipur Art Summit


More from Freemuse

» 23 August 2016: India: Artists struggle with censors over LGBT and other themes

» 30 May 2016: India: Censors under fire

» 1 December 2015: India: Police remove floating cow art and detain artists

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