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PUCL, March 2004

Cultural policing by Bajrang Dal and the Rajasthan police.

Also see, BJP rule in Rajasthan: Going the Gujarat way- By Kavita Srivastava, Communalism Combat, February-March 2004

Cultural Artists of Rajasthan stand in solidarity with Bhanu Bharti and Shail Choyal and condemn the attack on Cultural Expression and Artistic Freedom in Rajasthan

A Lower court in Udaipur grants anticipatory bail to Bhanu Bharti and Shail Choyal on 17th February

Several persons related to the field of art and culture in Rajasthan came together on the 15th of February and carried out a day long protest against the attack on freedom of expression that was carried out by the Bajrang Dal and the Rajasthan police in Udaipur.

As you are aware on the 10th of February, '04 cases u/s 295(A) of the IPC was filed against Bhanu Bhanrti, the Director of the Lok Kala Mandal who is also a well known theatre artist and Painter Shail Choyal. At the behest of a group of fifty Bajrang Dal activist who presented certain paintings, claiming that their religious sentiments had been outraged, the police lodged a case and conducted a raid of the Lok Kala Mandal, got into the Director's room in his absence ( He was away for a production to Delhi ) and seized the so called "objectionable" paintings. While the police was conducting this raid the Bajrang Dal workers were allowed to get into the Building. The paintings had been created as part of a campaign to promote breast feeding for CARE. The paintings had not been released as they had only been recently tested for feedback amongst the tribal community. The Bajrang Dal objected to the use of hindu gods from the hindu pantheon like that of Ganesh, Krishna, Ravana and others.

The day long event at the Safdar Hashmi corner of the Ram Niwas Bagh, consisted of painters painting on canvasses, theatre persons putting up plays, recitation of poems and speeches and songs. The paintings made by Shail Choyal were also displayed. Views on the paintings from ordinary people was also taken. All the activities happened underneath a canopy of trees in a wide area. Being a Sunday a large number of Jaipur citizens participated.

About 20 painters who through the medium of the brush expressed their protest. Painters like Gauri Shanker, Surendra Joshi, former prinicipal of the art college Sh. Somendra, Vidya Sagar Upadhaya, Art critic of Udaipur A.L. Damami, Prof. Suresh Sharma, R. B.Gautam, former secretary of the Lalit Kala Academy Sh.Khangarot, young painters like Shiv Kumar Gandhi and others participated.

Leading the group of theatre persons were IPTA president Ranbir Singh. Stunning perfomances by the MKSS & SWRC group led by Shanker Singh,Ram Lal and others resulted in large numbers of ordinary people participating. Other well known artists like Sabir Khan of Sarthak Theatre Group, Sunil and Lokesh of Theatre Artists Association of Jaipur also contributed

Several Literary persons like Sh.Ved Vyas, Rajendra Bhora, Mohan Shotreya, Manju Sharma, Simantini Raghav, Nirja Mishra, Govind Mathur, Sanjeev Mishra, Anju Dhadda, Neelabh Mishra and members of the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh and others also expressed their views. Other Human rights and political groups also participated.

Painters, writers, poets, theatre persons expressed shock and condemned the manner in which the police conducted itself. It was also brought to our notice that the Rajasthan police made history when they filed sec 295 (A) of the IPC case, of outraging religious sentiments, on these two artists. Nowhere in the State has such a case has been filed on a culture person. It was observed that if the police would be free to enter cultural places, lodge cases against artists, then no cultural artist will be free to create art as he / she wills, within the framework of the constitution. As every piece of art, music, play, poem they create may affect the sentiment of one or the other and require them to run from police stations to courts rather than do their required work.

The participants raised serious questions with the Government, whether it wanted to hand over the control of art and creativity to the police and the judiciary. Will art now be surrendered to the law and order machinery which does not have the competence or will Institutions like the Lok Kala Mandal now surrender to cultural policing of the Bajrang Dal, who will decide what form art should take, it was asked ? It was also reiterated that no society can flourish if art and the right to create will be attacked.

The people demanded from the Government that the cases against these two personalities be closed, Groups like the Bajrang Dal not be allowed to take control of public institutions like the police and the Lok Kala Mandal and that such incidents never be repeated in Rajasthan. The group decided to continue with this struggle and organise an exhibition of protest paitnings and a dialogue on the attack on cultural freedom in Rajasthan.

The two, Bhanu Bharti and Shail Choyal were granted anticipatory bail on the 17th of February, 2004 by a lower Court in Udaipur.

In Udaipur the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Dal have not given up their attack against Bhanu bharti and Shail Choyal. Everyday in one town on the outskirts of Udaipur a protest is being organised and their effigies are being burnt.On Shivratri, 18th February a pamphlet was also issued against them.

The CM has no yet met us although her office has got in touch with us.

We are,
Ranbir Singh, Surendra Joshi, Prem Krishna Sharma, Dilip Singh, Vidya Sagar Upadhaya, A. L Damami, Prof. Suresh Sharma, Sabir Khan, Rajendra Saiwal, Om Prakash Mathur, Komal Chand Jain, Dr. Narendra Gupta, Mamta Jaitly, Vakar-Ul-Ahad, Nishat Hussein, Mohan Shotreya, Komal Srivastava, Sumitra Chopra, Shri Prakash, Rajaram Bhadu, Sunil Ghildiyal, Ajay Jain, Kapil, Manish, Ishwar, Lokesh, Ashish Maharishi, Kavita Srivastava and many others

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