Attack on art: Silence on Indian front, decry Pakistani artists

Published: August 24, 2013

No serious condemnation, criticism from Indian artists, media on gallery attack. DESIGN: EMA ANIS

KARACHI: 

Pakistani artists were quick to condemn the attack by Hindu extremists on an art gallery in Ahmedabad showcasing the work of Pakistani and Indian artists. But their Indian counterparts were not.

Members of Bajrang Dal, an extremist youth organisation, ransacked the Amdavad Ni Gufa Art Gallery and destroyed the collection of paintings by 11 Pakistanis and six Indians to ‘protest’ against the alleged Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops and the killing of Indian soldiers.

Soon after the incident was reported, an official condemnation email titled ‘Aman ki Ashes’ was sent out by Gallery 6, the Islamabad art house that put up the collaborated show with the Amdavad Ni Gufa. The incident condemned far and wide in Pakistan – but things were quiet on the Indian front.

“They [Indians] proclaim to uphold art in high esteem. But there has been no strong criticism of the vandalism. It should have been vociferously condemned,” veteran Pakistani artist Shakil Saigol tells The Express Tribune.

Shakil’s exhibition in India is scheduled for early next year but he may change his mind. “I am seriously considering not going,” he says. “I don’t want my work destroyed.”

But Saigol is still more disappointed about the “lack of condemnation” from India. Sameera Raja, curator of Karachi’s Canvas Gallery, agrees. “If this horrible incident had taken place in Pakistan, the world would have been up in arms, calling us extremists with no concept of culture or art,” she says, adding that the Pakistani art community fiercely condemns the act of intolerance. “I suppose people are more accustomed to the ‘shining’ side of India. International agencies should condemn it too.”

For Raja, the silence is upsetting. “Maybe their art fraternity is facing a situation we do not know about,” she is forced to conjecture.

Citing the expulsion of New York Times journalist Declan Walsh from Pakistan, she says that India is not as “generous” when it comes to accepting responsibility and issuing apologies, in comparison to Pakistan.

According to Lahore-based artist RM Naeem – whose paintings were destroyed in the attack – the silence shows the difference in approaches between the two neighbours. “Why will India show a bad face to the world? They are cashing in on ‘Incredible India’. It is our media that is unchecked.”

But regarding the collaborated art shows, he said their purpose was to initiate peace. “Serious action should be taken against those trying to uproot that process.”

When contacted by The Express Tribune, leading Indian contemporary artist Anjolie Ela Menon confesses that she was not aware of the incident. “I never even heard about it,” she admits, adding that she is currently in Bangalore and perhaps would have known if she had been in Delhi. “I am absolutely shocked! I don’t think it appeared in our newspapers.”

“I am very keen on keeping the people-to-people contact alive no matter what politicians do. Artists are not really concerned with this ongoing cold war,” she adds.

One of their own

Hindu extremists Bajrang Dal are known to be the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). However, it has emerged that Ravindra Maradia, the organiser of the art show that was attacked, happens to be a VHP member himself.

Maradia, a Mumbai-based industrialist, told the daily, “I know Bajrang Dal would not do such a thing. It looks like the work of some hooligans who wanted attention.”

Nine VHP activists have been reportedly arrested after the incident. But the group’s general secretary Pravin Togadia has condemned their arrest on Twitter. “Opposing Pak artists’ exhibition in Ahmadabad when Pak [is] killing our army: a crime? Bajrang Dal, VHP workers picked up by police for votes!” Togadia says in his tweet, calling the art initiative “Aman ki Aasha, Chaman ki Barbaadi”.

Third Strike

The most recent attack is Amdavad Ni Gufa Gallery’s third such incident. In 1996, Bajrang Dal members destroyed dozens of tapestries and paintings by renowned Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain because of his controversial depictions of Hindu deities.

A decade later, the gallery was vandalised a second time by a Hindu extremist group for another of Husain’s paintings. The gallery was previously known as Hussain Doshi Gufa.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (34)

  • LalaGee
    Aug 24, 2013 - 6:48AM

    we know what pakistan media is all about…zaid hamid,hamid gul,,,,ranting murder to hindu’s………In India they were paintings but had it been pakistan…..replace the paintings with the life of people…

    ET:there is nothing offensive..publish the comment please..its a fact…..

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  • khan
    Aug 24, 2013 - 8:39AM

    good article..we want peace with India but not at the cost of such kind of humiliation…

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  • Virkaul
    Aug 24, 2013 - 9:06AM

    Vandalizing art exhibition of Pakistani artists is highly condemnable. Artists provide some hope for improving relations while there are enough forces that want to disrupt the peace process. Please spare artists. If you have reservations, don’t invite them but please don’t attack this breed.

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  • Prasad Babu
    Aug 24, 2013 - 9:13AM

    The entire Pakistan including the “artist” community was silent when ISI wreaked havoc in Mumbai. Entire Pakistan was silent when our soldiers were butchered by the Pakistani army. I have used up all my tears for our own people and no tears left for Pakistani paintings.

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  • M. Emad
    Aug 24, 2013 - 10:57AM

    Pakistan Army in 1971 killed hundreds of Bengali artists/painters/sculpturists/singers/writers in occupied Bangladesh. The general formula was: Hindu + painter/sculpturist/artist/singer/writer = no mercy-sure dead (if caught by Pakistan Army),

    My old-Dhaka school art (drawing) teacher – a hindu – was killed by Pakistan army in March/April 1971. Before that he was kidnapped with about 30 others from their hiding place at a Catholic church in old-Dhaka.

    Pakistan mentality and fine art-culture don’t seems go together.

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  • Aug 24, 2013 - 12:34PM

    I believe the hooligans were arrested – that is more than I can say for those responsible for 26/11 barring Lakhvi.

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  • Asif Butt
    Aug 24, 2013 - 2:23PM

    @M. Emad:
    Keep it up.

    Tell your grand children and their grand children about it.

    Meanwhile we all should dig into what every historic nation has done to us or our region and let bash them now.

    All this because you definitely live in the stone age ….

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  • Siddiqui
    Aug 24, 2013 - 2:30PM

    This clearly depicts who are extremists and who are open minded and moderates. Art transcends borders and religions and such kind of vandalism is uncalled for.Recommend

  • sundeep
    Aug 24, 2013 - 3:06PM

    @Asif Butt: He is speaking truth. Do you have any problem. Is is because he is narrating an incident in which Hindus are victim and not muslim.

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  • TiffinBox
    Aug 24, 2013 - 3:39PM

    @asif butt, you guys have two sets of rule for the same situation always, one that applies to pakistani and the other to the rest of the world. M. Emad is right, you have no answers so he should keep it up and tell the tale to his children and grand children. Now you want to wipe out history and live in the present and future. How convinent uh?Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq
    Aug 24, 2013 - 4:14PM

    @M. Emad:
    so Sir, your point of view is that what happened in Ahmedabad in 2013 is justified by what happened in Bangal in 1971.
    Hmmm, quite a logicRecommend

  • Asif Butt
    Aug 24, 2013 - 5:09PM

    @sundeep:

    I replied to you but ET did not allow it , although there was nothing offensive in it.

    @TiffinBox:

    I dont know what you are arguing about here ?

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  • @M.Emad
    Aug 24, 2013 - 5:28PM

    Bangladesh exists because Pakistan exists.
    If it wasn’t for Jinnah and your people voting for Pakistan, East Bengal wouldn’t have been detached from India.
    .
    Pakistan “mentality” is the reason Bangladesh exists.
    .
    Please spare art. Two wrongs don’t make a right. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”
    .
    Detestable lack of condemnation from the Indian side. ET, thanks for prooving what we already expected. And please publish this comment. You didn’t last time I replied to Emad.

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  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Aug 24, 2013 - 6:50PM

    It was distasteful what happened in Ahmedabad but then it is in Gujarat, the land of modi. The art exhibition should have taken in calcutta or Chennai or Chandigarh, any place where these bajrang goons have no say or power to do anything. I am not justifying the attack, I deplore it but our Gujarat and anything pakistan in it is like a disaster waiting to happen. India is huge, pick a rational province like Punjab, west bengal, Tamil nadu, Kerala and people love arts here too. Calcuttans would welcome artists here. Politics and cultural events should not be mixed. Rab rakha

    PS I might get bombed by fellow patriotic indians too now for my views. But then I hope they don’t because the essence of democracy is to hear and RESPECT each others views even if agree to disagree. Jai hind

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  • Gratgy
    Aug 24, 2013 - 6:56PM

    @@M.Emad
    Bangladesh exists because Pakistan exists.

    This is like saying Israel exists because of Hitler

    Pakistan “mentality” is the reason Bangladesh exists.

    You are 100% correct. Pakistani mentality is the reason they are a separate country today.

    @Asif Butt
    I dont know what you are arguing about here ?

    That we can all see, its pretty consistent. lol!

    Bangladesh is doing far better than you today. Oh! And they have electricity, which means, You are closer to a stone age than them.

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  • Umar
    Aug 24, 2013 - 7:17PM

    @M. Emad:
    @Prasad Babu:
    @Virkaul:
    @LalaGee:
    Reading the comments generally posted from the people at your side of the border, I have learnt something about you. You are being taught and fed that you are a truly developed country where there are no flaws, no lackings, nothing wrong in short. But the problem is, we foreigners do not read/watch your news wearing the spectacles of Indian media. We learn only truth and no propaganda. So no matter how much you guys portray yourself as one super power of the world, the world wouldn’t accept that, it will only accept what you are, i.e hollow chest beaters. A nation thats buried under the filth of poverty, dirt, diseases, rape, class and caste difference, extremism(yes agree or not) comes on a Pakistani website and highlights our issues day in and day out.
    And we consider ourselves normal human beings, hence do not deny having shortcomings. We accept them and try to come over them and this is the way to progress. As for you guys there isn’t even an identification of a problem, forget about getting their solutions. I see no future.

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  • @Gratgy
    Aug 24, 2013 - 7:35PM

    Ok. Let’s go over the facts. The territory now comprising Bangladesh voted to join Pakistan in 1947. That’s why it was mentioned in the story) from India. Sylhet, a district of Assam, was only joined to East Bengal after a referendum that went in Pakistan’s favour. The Chittagong Hill Tracts were joined as compensation of Murshidabad.
    .
    Were it not for Pakistan’s creation, this would never have happened. Your point about Israel and Hitler is appalling.
    .
    Sheikh Mujib was an activist for the Muslim League in 1947. Please read his autobio. He attacked a Hindu mob burning a mosque in 1946, yelling “Pakistan Zindabad”
    .
    The state religion of Bangladesh is Islam. Bangladesh was lost due to institutional discrimination and the massacre of 1971. It would never have been made if Pakistan wasn’t. Simple fact.
    .
    ET: Don’t allow Gratgy to attack what I said without a response. It’s not fair. More importantly, this disgusting act (mentioen is a sad example of the shallow nationalisms that permeate the subcontinent.
    .
    Here’s hoping for peace. ET: Please be fair. You’ve allowed an unrelated and unverified comment by Emad. This is simply a rejoinder. Art does not need to answer to bigots. Love.

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  • @Gratgy
    Aug 24, 2013 - 7:40PM

    PS my friend, Bangladesh has seen its Hindu population fall from 28% (1951) to 15% (1972) to 9% (today) whereas Sindh has stayed 8.5% Hindu throughout. Pakistan leads Bangladesh in per capita income (double) and GDP (also double)
    .
    This is my second and last response to you. I’m hoping ET publishes the first. In the end, if you want to argue your petty nationalism on an article chronicling the sad lack of silence about the destruction of a distinctly apolitical object (art), then have fun.
    .
    This “whatabouttery” doesn’t proove anything. Sad. ET: Kindly publish both comments. Can’t let these Indians say everything without having your domestic audience give responses. Peace.

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  • @Gratgy
    Aug 24, 2013 - 7:57PM

    ET: You messed up my comment.
    .
    OK. Let’s go over the facts. The territory now comprising Bangladesh voted to join Pakistan in 1947. That’s why it was SEPARATED from India. Sylhet, a district of Assam, was only joined to East Bengal after a referendum that went in Pakistan’s favour. The Chittagong Hill Tracts were joined as compensation of Murshidabad.
    .
    Even the Awami League started off as the Awami Muslim League, and even fielded 6 candidates for the National Assembly from West Pakistan in 1971. (This is an addition).
    .
    Please publish this in addition to the last two. Kudos!

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  • Fact
    Aug 24, 2013 - 8:11PM

    I believe the exhibition started in mumbai, went to delhi and then came to ahmedabad. Chennai was the last stop but alas all paintings have been sent back to pakistan

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  • lol
    Aug 24, 2013 - 8:39PM

    Thank you for such a wonderful hospitality :)

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  • Prasad Babu
    Aug 24, 2013 - 9:21PM

    @Umar

    I am the first to admit and condemn all the weakness of Indians. Yes, India has several problems like the ones you mentioned. But that does not give you the right to unleash your savagae terrorism on our soil.

    I know, I know what you will say, Mumbai massacre was done by RAW and 9/11 was done by CIA. Well, Umar, I have no cure for your illness.

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  • csmann
    Aug 24, 2013 - 9:51PM

    Bajrang Dal is a bunch of hooligans,and Togadia is a thug-justifying the destruction of art for political gains.No less than TTP shooting on the Sri Lanka Cricket Team. There are civilized ways to protest, but on the other hand Bajrang Dal could hardly be called civilized.

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  • Asif Butt
    Aug 24, 2013 - 10:55PM

    @Gratgy:
    I know you cant feel confident without those “lol”s of yours in your comments.

    Me , I dont need to say anything. We Pakistanis know well k India kitne paani mai hai aur Bangladesh kitne paani mai hai.

    In fact the whole world knows that . They know what sort of strength a country like Pakistan can have without all these terrorism issues.

    We Pakistanis dont need any acknowledgment or certificate or even words of support from our serpent neighbors.

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  • Umar
    Aug 24, 2013 - 11:00PM

    @Prasad Babu:
    Well Prasad Babu, I am glad at least one Indian I read here has a heart to accept the truth. But as expected you dragged it somewhere else. I tell you what, your talks are just the reflection of your cunning media backed by your failed government. For every failure on its part, it has used this Pakistan excuse and it has bailed them out quite effectively. As for Mumbai attacks, if I am that seriously ill, you can listen to what your CBI official recently said. It was all over in the news incase you missed it. Also does one Indian question your government on what its doing in Balochistan?

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  • Asif Butt
    Aug 25, 2013 - 3:18AM

    @Umar:
    You are hitting your head on a lifeless rock.

    He has no cures for your illness , and they have no machine to diagnose their national symptoms.

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  • Imi
    Aug 25, 2013 - 3:28AM

    Sad

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  • Imi
    Aug 25, 2013 - 3:32AM

    M emad stop living in the past man time has changed
    You are in the middle of no where

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  • Gratgy
    Aug 25, 2013 - 10:55AM

    @Asif Butt

    I always recommend your comments for the sheer amusement it brings me

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  • darbullah
    Aug 25, 2013 - 5:43PM

    Is art allowed in Pakistan?

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  • Gratgy
    Aug 25, 2013 - 7:16PM

    @Gratgy/@M.Emad

    I guess you are the same person. Lets talk about facts

    OK. Let’s go over the facts. The territory now comprising Bangladesh voted to join Pakistan in 1947.

    Direct action day started in Calcutta on August 6 1946 which finally culminated in the formation of Pakistan. Hence you should be thankful to the Bengalis for the creation of Pakistan not the other way around. If not for Bengalis in the current Bangladesh, you would not have Pakistan.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DirectActionDay

    Were it not for Pakistan’s creation, this would never have happened. Your point about Israel and Hitler is appalling.
    The state religion of Bangladesh is Islam. Bangladesh was lost due to institutional discrimination and the massacre of 1971.

    I know it was appalling, I meant it to be appalling. It is as appalling as your comment that Bangladeshis should be thankful you slaughtered 3 Mn of them so they got their own country. It is exactly like saying Jews should be thankful to Hitler as they have their own country now.

    Sheikh Mujib was an activist for the Muslim League in 1947. Please read his autobio. He attacked a Hindu mob burning a mosque in 1946, yelling “Pakistan Zindabad”

    All the more reason that Pakistan should be thankful to the Bangladeshis and not the other way around. You just proved my point

    Pakistan leads Bangladesh in per capita income (double) and GDP (also double)
    I don’t see Bangladesh in the list of failed countries. Their Taka is worth more than PKR and they live in a much more secure state than Pakistan.

    I never mentioned art, nationality or religion in my comment, you are the one who brought in petty nationalism with this bigoted comment

    Bangladesh exists because Pakistan exists.

    ET @Gratgy/@M.Emad wrote three long comments at me, at least let me reply in one

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  • @Darbullah
    Aug 26, 2013 - 1:35AM

    Your presence is ample proof that the art of trolling is tolerated, even encouraged.

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  • Arshad Khan
    Aug 26, 2013 - 2:30AM

    I found no need to read the whole article. One or two comments caught my eyes. What does it take for the Indians and Pakistanis to realize that such acts are to be condemned outright whether they happen in India or Pakistan. These mad acts never justify any protest that one carries out to show ones indignation, it never justifies a protest against any other incident.What it does show is that by and large both countries since independence have not learnt to discern the good and the bad. The murders, rapes, looting carried out during partition has never been admitted as a crime against humanity and remains a blot on both the nations. No judicial process was carried out to punish the culprits. This blot will always remain and such incidents will repeat themselves.

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  • Blast accused
    Oct 21, 2013 - 7:10PM

    We will attack Pakistanis again and again in India unless and until you stop coming here.

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