People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 34

August 31 , 2008


Protest Meeting Held At The Same Venue

Widespread Condemnation Of Attack On SAHMAT Exhibition

BY attacking the SAHMAT exhibition in the heart of New Delhi – in the lawns of V P House – the sangh parivar has sent out the message that its fascistic campaign of attacks on artists to further its political agenda is on in full swing. That this attack took place in a high security zone of the capital points to the high confidence levels of the sangh parivar.

On the afternoon of August 24, a group of 8 to 10 goons of sangh parivar descended on the exhibition of reproductions of eminent artist M F Husain's works organised by SAHMAT. This was put up on August 22, 23 and 24, 2008, to coincide with the three-day Art Fair at the India Art Summit, Pragati Maidan, Delhi, at which galleries had been advised not to show M F Husain's work. This exhibition was to protest the decision and in solidarity with the artist. Many artists expressed unhappiness and anger at the exclusion of such a renowned artist from the Art Fair. In a statement they had noted “ Maybe the organisers were afraid of protests or opposition from certain fundamentalist organisations. But by yielding to such threats the organisers were playing into the hands of such forces”.

The SAHMAT exhibition had on display, apart from reproductions of Husain’s paintings, eight photographs of Husain by Parthiv Shah, two photographs of Husain painting, a hoarding by Madan Mahatta, and three photographs from Husain’s ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ series from the Village Art Gallery, Delhi.

On Sunday, August 24, at around 3.30 pm, the exhibition, which was being held in a shamiana outside the SAHMAT office, was attacked and vandalised by 8 to 10 miscreants. The television channel ETV, whose crew was present, has recorded the entire episode. The vandals ran away from the scene after destroying the framed photographs and prints, a television set and DVD player (on which Husain’s films were being screened), and furniture. The artist Arpana Caur, and Anil Chandra and Santosh Sharma, SAHMAT members, were witnesses to the episode.

In protest against the attack on SAHMAT and the vandalism, the exhibition was extended, in ‘as-is’, vandalised condition, for a day – till the evening of August 25. Large number of people from various sections of society came together at a meeting at the venue to protest against this cowardly attack, and the attempt on the part of rightwing forces to impose a narrow, majoritarian view of our culture at the venue of the attack.

Prominent among those who came and expressed their solidarity with SAHMAT were CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat, Central Secretariat members V Srinivasa Rao and Nilotpal Basu, MPs Hannan Mollah and P Madhu, Janata Dal (Secular) leader Danish Ali, AIDWA president Subhashini Ali and general secretary Sudha Sundararaman, JLS general secretary Chanchal Chauhan, prominent singers Shuba Mudgal and Madan Gopal Singh, renowned film marker Saeed Akhtar Mizra, well-known painter Vivan Sundaram, artists Arpana Caur, Parthiv Shah, Ram Rahman, M K Raina, Shamsul Islam, Asad Zaidi and others.