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Act against the vandals, say activists

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JAN. 31 . The attack on the famous works of art — including those of veteran artists such as N.S. Bendre and M.F. Husain — in a gallery in Surat, Gujarat, allegedly by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists, evoked an angry response from artists, writers and concerned citizens here.

They protested against what they called the "forced censorship" and demanded that the Government take a strong stand against the vandals.

"Everyone talks about this feel-good factor. But what is this feel-good factor? Does anyone feel good about what has happened? And more important, is the Government doing anything about it?'' asks artist Krishan Khanna at a press conference organised under the banner of SAHMAT today.

Such acts were not signs of a civilised society. "What will those people teach me about being a Hindu? It was our generation that experienced the pain of Partition and we have tried to grow beyond it but it seems those who did not even experience it can't forget it,'' he said.

"This is coming in the series of recent attacks on cultural institutions. It shows absolute disregard for the State apparatus of censorship. Instead, a group of people want to impose their sense of censorship on everyone else. This is not simply an assault on a work of art or a film, but on people who want to think and create," said Rajeev Dhavan, lawyer.

Pointing out the "element of arrogance" in the act, he said: "There is a lumpen element in our society which is politically fraternised and protected. They have no regard for the State censorship apparatus, instead they think they are the law. The protection of the State authority gives them this arrogance."

Foreseeing a growth in this "lumpen element," Geeta Kapoor, writer, warned of the widening web that would leave very little space for people to express themselves. "Soon this web will touch every bit of our life and every painting or film or piece of writing will be screened by it," she said.

The Janwadhi Lekhak Sangh present at the press meet also condemned the act of vandalism. Appealing to all Indians to see the "real fascist face of these elements," its general secretary, Chanchal Chauhan, said: "The RSS and BJP are never tired of declaring themselves to be the sole custodians of Indian culture, but their acts of destruction, demolition of creative works of art as done in Gujarat show that they are the worst enemies of Indian culture."

Attempting to find a solution, Mr. Dhavan called for the formation of an action committee that would keep a watch and provide assistance whenever needed.

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