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Contemporary painting and Indian politics
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->In the backdrop of art controversy, are we creating an intolerant fascist state by curtailing liberal imagination?

Expressing his feeling over the arrest of Chandra Mohan, Manel Gupta, a young art student from Delhi said, “I think it is totally unacceptable because if we want a progressive society, we have to be more tolerant, give freedom to every other religion and it is a total political act. All such things have existed in our culture. So, if we have to grow forward, we have to keep politics out of it.”

On CNN-IBN’s show India 360, renowned Artist Rajiv Sethi and Pioneer Columnist Sandhya Jain came together with host Smita Nair to argue – Should freedom of art be unlimited?

Artist Rajiv Sethi gave a history of intolerance relating to arts in this country. “We always have been a very intolerant country. Religion has often been used to leverage power. Hindu emperors demolished Jain monastery in the South, Muslim rulers demolished Hindu temples and now some attack churches and destroy libraries. I think such myopic view of life by no means restricted to our times,” said Sethi.

Blaming lack of facilities to learn things to become tolerant, Sethi said, “I don’t blame the fringe fanatic of right wing Hindutva for knowing so little about our Ganga-Yamuna culture – I think they are just pseudo secularists. But I also believe that pseudo Hindus and hyper Hindus, who knows so little about the great religion – Hinduism."

"And I think this is largely because there are so few centers of learning. There are 40 departments of artistry in America for Indian Art but there are three in India. There is hardly any department for comparative religions, so you can’t expect people to even know better. And what I think, we should realise is that irreverent of at least playful images of the gods appear even on our household shrines,” added Sethi.

Speaking on the issue, Pioneer Columnist Sandhya Jain said, “I don’t think, this is just a matter of freedom. There is a tradition in which iconographic images are always presented and the freedom within which you will present those images will always have certain rules. Now in this case, I repeatedly told about the family background of this student, that he is a son of a poor carpenter from Andhra Pradesh. The persons of such a background would have a greater reverential attitude towards tradition and culture than this student seems to have displayed. So, the kind of training he has been given in that institution itself is very questionable, because the image of God in sculpture or in painting is itself an icon.”

The great Artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is never pure, we should keep it far away from the innocent ignorant. We should never let people approach. Yes, art is dangerous but it’s not pure. Because if it’s pure, it’s not art.”

Against Picasso’s statement, Jain said, “It doesn’t apply to an Indian context because we do have our Shilpa Shastras and other things to determine what art is”.

Sethi interrupted by saying, “Even those are allowed for interpretation. There are hundreds of arguments; there are hundreds of Shilpa Shastras and there in fact there are Lakaraga – when the musician takes something, it’s no longer described as one, he gives his own interpretation. Which is what makes India creative. So, the guy has been innovative, he is taking something, which he has read and seen as child and he is re-interpreting in a way that he sees. He is a student for heaven’s sake, he is supposed to do that.”

But can art ever be perverse?

“Art is a mirror. If society is perverse, art will reflect that,” said Sethi.

MS Uty Baroda is a stronghold of Modern/contemporary art.

"Art is a mirror." sethi.

Yes but being a mirror it should not distort the reality.

The carpenter from Andhra Pradesh could be Naxal influenced. So to hold him as a carrier of ancient values is incorrect. OTH his very Naxal influenced mind might have been his sloe qualification to get into the MS Uty institute.

Has anyone come across a scholar called Meera Nanda?
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->. “We always have been a very intolerant country. Religion has often been used to leverage power. Hindu emperors demolished Jain monastery in the South, Muslim rulers demolished Hindu temples and now some attack churches and destroy libraries. I think such myopic view of life by no means restricted to our times,” said Sethi.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Maybe this sethi can provide proof where Hindu emperors demolished Jain monasteries or does his assertion become fact?
This thread title should be changed to "Contemporary painting and Indian politics". MFH is a big player but there are a lot of others.

Bharatvarsh, romila Thapar also says the same. The ref is to the South Indian Pallava kings- Narasimhavarman Pallava.
In term of aesthtetics,indian art,and also middle east art,and maya art(in some extend)are part of CONSONANT type of aesthetics;
while european and chinese art are part of DISONANT part of aesthetic type.

Is hard to explaind,studies are necesary.But we can say that disonant art has a kind of barbarity in arangement of colors and shapes.
While consonant art presume a subtle rafinament in color-shape(and intensity also) arangement.
A good comparation can be made betwin consonant minoan art and disonant micenian(or dorian) art.
We ca say that disonant art is predominant in temperat zone,while consonant art is dominant in tropical world.
You can trust them to twist every story to place the blame on Hindus.


This art business is tocuhing raw nerves. An op-ed article from Deccan Chronicle, 28 May 2007

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The Artful Dodgers
By Farzana Versey

The Hindutvavadis were right when they spoke about how the paintings of the Shivlinga, Goddess Durga and Jesus Christ by a student from MS University, Vadodara, would promote religious enmity and hurt religious sentiments "with nefarious intentions like creating riots." Somebody did later decide there has to be communal parity, so Prophet Mohammed became the next target. <b>My target is the artist community. What made them gather together and make those sounds of, "We strongly condemn attempts on the part of communal political outfits to unnecessarily politicise issues connected with artistic expression"?

Will someone please tell us that when artists themselves portray political issues, in what position are they to hide behind the skirts of artistic expression? Would they speak up for Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the Dera Sacha Sauda chief, who was accused of "sacrilegious imitation of Guru Gobind Singh"? On what grounds does imitation of clothes and speech qualify as sacrilege? If we are told that we must follow in the footsteps of those who found God or were enlightened, then why does someone fashioning His persona after one such saint become an issue?

Does anyone have the answer?

Artists happily wear the garb of noble commitment when it suits them. They may paint a downtrodden people and their buyer will be someone who is perhaps an exploiter.</b>

Regarding the Vadodara controversy, an art historian said, "Surely government and people have better things to do?"

<b>When the government tax department raided 25 art establishments in New Delhi and Mumbai, there was collective anger, although art is like any commercial enterprise today and must be open to such scrutiny.

If these people want to ask questions like, "What do the cops know about art?", then could someone ask them what does that Mumbai businessman, Guru Swarup Srivastava, who paid Rs 100 crores for 100 M.F. Husain paintings, know? What do tyre manufacturers and other assorted such characters know? It is market frenzy. And because you cannot frame your mutual fund portfolio, you find something prettier.</b>

Most of these sanctimonious types tend to sound irritatingly paranoid.<b> "The sense of fear is palpable," said a filmmaker. "This is not just an attack on art. If they go on at this rate, they will also ban Mahatma Gandhi’s image, because he too doesn’t wear enough clothes."</b> <!--emo&:roll--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/ROTFL.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='ROTFL.gif' /><!--endemo-->:

Puerile logic. Have you heard of the VHP going to various temples and covering up the frescoes there? They care diddly squat for the Mahatma, but it sounds so artistically right to bring in that name. Opportunists! <b>Said another artist, "Such actions will only prove detrimental for India’s cultural future."

Says who? A bunch of people who attend art camps organised by some fat cat in a beach house when they are not gracing every little art opening where champagne and whatever thingies go with it have become mandatory? People who do nothing for a living or for life have suddenly acquired a designation: "Art connoisseur." Their outings are covered on Page 3, and their clothes are commented on.</b>

I love observing such trivial pursuits, so I know that one such aficionado looks like a tribal woman, another’s T-shirts are the talk of the town, someone’s beard goes through a change and another one carries an attitude.

A couple of novice artists had exhibited a work rather blatantly titled, "T*ts, Cl*ts & Elephant D*ck." One would have thought the freedom of expression wallahs would wah-wah the effort. No. They thought it was in bad taste. <b>These same guys, some getting out of their sick beds, stood to protest as part of the Free Chandramohan Committee. Why?

Do they know whether this bloke will become a good artist and a good tax-paying citizen? Have they wondered about his motivation to paint what he did?</b>

Have you noticed that the big names are becoming passé because the new breed of art lovers is into promoting raw talent? <b>Guys who would otherwise be shaking a leg in the nights and walking their dogs in the morning take time off between power lunches and high tea to sponsor some fellow who they are convinced will play their game.

After a while these people form a coterie. They may or may not call it affordable art, but the paraphernalia is the same as at any event, for the patron cannot be seen as a lowlife promoting lowlife. The glitzy mosaic galleries where the crisp clatter of stilettos mingles with the jaded whispers of laboured praise and "sold" tags capture more attention than the paintings themselves become the venue for this baptism baying for blood money.</b>

On a pavement outside Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, there has been street art that has quietly been going on. I once bought an affordable painting and still recall the utter naiveté of the artist from Kolkata who gave me a discount. <b>K.M. Shenoy — a true pioneer for having started this movement — did not like it. He did not want the artists to short-sell. In fact, he used to photocopy his drawings and have several prints. His logic was impeccable. "No one asks the writer to publish only one copy of a book."</b>

How one aches for such honesty where art does not become a mere facilitator for social chatter and the sari does not have "an old Warli depiction." For heaven’s sake, stop making a mockery of what those poor people do on their huts by carrying your fake concern on expensive silk.

Farzana Versey can be contacted at kaaghaz.kalam@gmail.com
Op-ed In Pioneer, 5/29/07
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->One nation, four people

Prafull Goradia

<b>When Hindu sentiments are hurt, secularists defend it on the basis of freedom of expression, but when it comes to Muslim sensibility, they take a diametrically opposite stand.</b>

There has been a disproportionate hullabaloo over the paintings produced by Chandramohan of MS University, Baroda. <b>Most newspapers have carried articles and the TV channels have held discussions on the subject. Heated arguments have been exchanged but, most of the time, without stating what precisely had been painted and, therefore, why it should be objectionable.</b>

It was reminiscent of the Union Government's ban on Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses without its officials having read the text. <b>Sitting on her haunches, goddess Durga was shown giving birth to a full grown man. A portrait of Vishnu was stamped on a Shivling. A crucified Jesus was portrayed as urinating into a modern toilet painted below the Cross. </b>

The exhibition of the prima facie outrageous subjects were reported to the police who took whatever action they deemed fit. <b>Chandramohan was taken into custody. No one was killed or physically hurt and yet the Dean of the Art Centre, Prof Shivaji Panickar, chose to go underground. No one is lauding the quality of the art but many have defended the University Art Centre on grounds of freedom of expression.</b> If restrictions are placed on artists how can they be creative?

The same set of people took an opposite stand over another issue only some weeks ago. The news reached the Indian shores several months after a cartoonist in Denmark had caricatured Prophet Mohammed in a newspaper. Then, they spread like wild fire leading to mass protests by Muslims in meetings, processions as well as the media. Not merely the Muslims but also secular luminaries across the country condemned the cartoons without even taking the opportunity to see their specimen.

The protests culminated in then Uttar Pradesh Minister Haji Yaqoob Qureshi, at a public meeting in Meerut, declaring that he would raise Rs 51 crore for whoever gives him the severed head of the cartoonist. There was no disapproval of such a barbaric proposal; nor was he dropped from the Samajwadi Party Cabinet.

<b>On the contrary, a campaign was launched in the media to propagate that MF Husain had done no wrong. In fact, for his artistic achievements, he should be considered for the award of Bharat Ratna. 'Bharat Mata in the nude was his only controversial painting' was the secular thrust. Hardly any mention was made of his earlier outrageous efforts, like naked Sita swinging on the long tail of Hanuman, goddess Durga mating with her lion or Parvati copulating with the Nandi bull while Shankar watches on a Shivaratri night.</b>

The secular arguments recalled the Ajanta frescoes and the Khajuraho temples. They conveniently overlooked the fact that neither Ajanta nor Khajuraho depicted deities. They only dealt with men and women. <b>Surely, there is a distinction between the divine and the human. Painting a man or woman in any posture might offend the onlooker's sensibility. But a similar depiction of the divine would outrage the devotee's sentiments.</b>

Then the argument is offered that in a democratic society there should pervade a complete freedom of expression. For such a view to be at all marketable, there should be the freedom to paint a picture of say Prophet Mohammed.

<b>The most recent development has been over the freedom to dress. The head priest of Dera Sacha Sauda chose to demonstrate himself in a dress which offended the sensibilities of the Sikh community. Whether a man's freedom to dress as he likes can be bracketed with the liberty of an artist to paint as he likes or not, needs a lawyer to opine. One expert opinion feels that if an ordinary citizen had dressed himself like a saint, he would have been treated as an aberration but a head priest doing the same thing has been interpreted as posing to compete with a highly revered Guru of the Sikhs. Fair enough. These perhaps are the wages of a high position and its occupation of public space.</b>

The Baroda paintings also captured public space when the University Art Centre invited leading members of the media and had the paintings photographed. One set was published by the Gujarat Samachar on the morrow of the exhibition.

<b>The point being made here is that when it came to Sikh sentiments, no secularist has taken sides. When it came to Muslim sensibility, a similar set of people condemned the cartoons. When it comes to Jesus the Christian feelings were ignored and when it has come to Hindu emotions, they are dismissed by the secularists with contempt.</b> These add up to not double but quadruple standards. For the Muslims reverence, for the Sikhs silence, for the Christians indifference and for the Hindus contempt.


I still think the issues is internal to Hindus and deals with the issue of Modernization versus modernization. The proponents iof he former have MFH as their poser child and he happens to be with a Muslim name.

BTW this is the frst time I am hearing the real extent of this Chandramohan's artistic license - Hindus and Christians. Looks like he spared Islam. Wonder why? <!--emo&:roll--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/ROTFL.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='ROTFL.gif' /><!--endemo-->:

This is one of the controversial creations of Chandramohan.
Thanks rraajjeevv for sharing the link.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->the Dean of the Art Centre, <span style='color:red'>Prof Shivaji Panickar</span>, chose to go underground.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Is this "Shivaji" Panickar somehow related to the other better-known Panikkars : KN Panikkar - the communist VC of Sankara Sanskrit University of Kerala, or KM Panikkar 'the greatest historian'?

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Kerala’s erstwhile commie government rewarded <span style='color:red'>KN Panikkar</span> — full-time party ideologue and part-time ‘historian’ — with a comfy post-retirement job as the VC of a Sanskrit university at Kaladi. Not only did he not know a word of sanskrit, he used the usual marxist diatribe against the langauge as the langauge of ‘oppressors’. Of course, no ideological considerations come in the way of grabbing government (read tax-payer) doles, so Panikkar was one happy VC of an oppresor-language university for several years. link<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-ramana+May 30 2007, 02:11 AM-->QUOTE(ramana @ May 30 2007, 02:11 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->BTW this is the frst time I am hearing the real extent of this Chandramohan's artistic license - Hindus and Christians. Looks like he spared Islam. Wonder why?  <!--emo&:roll--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/ROTFL.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='ROTFL.gif' /><!--endemo-->:
He doesnt want to be hunted by 1 billion muslims.
Op-Ed in Pioner 30 May 2007
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Sword of truth

Second Opinion: Priyadarsi Dutta

The tribe of secularists is conspicuous by its silence over the Dera Sacha Sauda and Khalsa (Akal Takht) standoff. <b>The controversy that set Punjab psychologically aflame erupted at a time when the Left liberals were busy defending MS University's art student Chandramohan Srilamanthula's freedom to paint obscene picture of Goddess Durga, Shiva and Jesus Christ.</b>

It was fair to expect the lib-Left activists to travel to Punjab to defend Sacha Sauda master Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim's right to attire himself as Guru Govind Singh. But as days rolled into a fortnight,<b> no Left liberal went to Punjab or Haryana to defend Gurmeet Singh Ram Raheem's "right to freedom of expression"</b>. This was like Britain never sending a single soldier or aeroplane to Poland during World War II, although its war on Germany was declared over that country alone.

Where have the Left liberals beaten a retreat? Is it in the same cave where they were hibernating during the controversy over Prophet Mohammed's cartoons in Jyllands Posten? For, they were not seen defending the "right to freedom of expression" of the Danish cartoonists. On that occasion, too, the libertines maintained a studied - and stunning - silence.

But the liberals deciding not to march on to Punjab to demonstrate solidarity with Baba Gurmeet Singh Ram Raheem is understandable. Had they done so, they would have been greeted by incandescent Sikhs and chased back to wherever they started from - perhaps further. Obviously, Chandramohan's valiant supporters value their lives more than they value "right to freedom of expression". One wonders what would have been the consequences if Chandramohan had taken liberties with the Gurus, icons and symbols of the Khalsa faith. Possibly he would have been reduced to a piece of modern art, as execrable as his work.

Tragically, the Sikh rage over the impersonation of the revered 10th Guru was singularly absent among Hindus over the denigration of Durga and among Christians over the defiling of Christ by Chandramohan. Are we then to presume that the sword is more powerful than muted anger couched in polite terms?

The writer is enraged but does he really want Hindus to be like monotheist religions? The Left Liberal issue is with Hindusim. Dont be fooled. It is anything that reduces the Hinduism that will be embraced by these worthies.
MF Mussain is Shia or Sunni? My guess is Shia - going by 'Hussain'.

Is he a convert?
<!--QuoteBegin-Bodhi+May 30 2007, 06:11 PM-->QUOTE(Bodhi @ May 30 2007, 06:11 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->MF Mussain is Shia or Sunni?  My guess is Shia - going by 'Hussain'.

Is he a convert?

I dont think hussain necessarily is shia. saddam hussain from a sunni minority ruled over shia majority in iraq.
What is the point of that? MFH is attacking Hindu revivalism. He says that clearly in his interview to Frontline. It does not matter what sect he is from. The main point to understand his attack is not from Islamic POV but Modernism. Its happenstance that he has an Islamic name. Unless this is understood one wont be able to counter him.
But I don't understand why his Modernism is restricted to Hinduism? Why he is not showing same level of open thinking on Islamic subjects?
In his mind, its easy to draw a line between Modernism and religious sensitivity regarding others.
Degenerating Hinduism and getting away is easy.
Now he is enjoying life in UK, staying with his extended family and enjoying hospitality of Indian Embassy and who’s and who of Commie and NGO brigade.
<!--QuoteBegin-LSrini+May 30 2007, 06:56 PM-->QUOTE(LSrini @ May 30 2007, 06:56 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->I dont think hussain necessarily is shia. saddam hussain from a sunni minority ruled over shia majority in iraq.
Good point.
Not relevant to the topic except in an indirect way.

My friend who is Indonesian Chinese came back last week from a visit to Beijing which he lived in as a youth. He is horrified at the new egg shaped structure for a stadium built right across from the Forbidden City. He says the new structures for the Beijing Olympics are beign designed by the grandson of Albert Speer the architect of Hitler and they will appeal to those who prefer Picasso to tradtional Chinese art. His comment was why do these people hate Chinese art so much?

Looks like same gang at work in China too!
Here is some inside.
Seeing Red<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->

<b>What exactly will emerge from the construction is unclear. While parallels could be drawn with Niemeyer's Brasília, Lutyens's New Delhi, or Haussmann's Paris, it is Germania, Albert Speer's projected remake of Berlin as the new capital of Hitler's Reich, that comes closest to what is being effected in China's capital. The comparison is not incidental: the man behind a central element of Beijing's new look is none other than Albert Speer Jr. An architect like his father, he has realized projects all over the world, but this is his most significant yet.</b>

That's because, long as it is, Speer's north-south axis—based, he says, on the Chinese character for middle—is just the beginning. All across the city, great avenues, sweeping ring roads, grandiose ministries and banks, massive stadiums, towers, and shopping emporiums are rising up. Most of it is, as one Beijing acquaintance put it, "brutal, simplistic, and built on a vast scale at breathtaking speed." And a number of the city's top architects make no attempt to hide the fact that they find much of the architecture dead ugly.

"The planning is a big mess, really," says Kai Cui, a well-known architect and vice president of the city's planning department. <span style='color:red'><b>"There has been a spirit of, 'We want to cut off history.' And there has been a lot of greed behind what is being done." </b></span>

UNESCO has bravely raised its voice against rapacious developers working hand in glove with local authorities to extract maximum profit. <b>Of the 3,000 original hutongs, or narrow alleys, some of which date back to the days of Kublai Khan, a mere 25 are being preserved. Out of 1,000 temples, a few dozen will be left, isolated islands in a grid of eight-lane expressways, overlooked by giant glass-and-steel towers. </b>

If Hitler embraced Speer's backward-looking Neoclassical vision of Berlin, China's leaders are in love with technology. They want to show that the future belongs to them. "They press us to do something technically, artistically challenging, the bigger the better," Kai says. Over the past few years, Beijing has been holding competitions to attract the best of contemporary architecture. Some of the results are quite exciting—and quite new for China. There is nothing remotely Chinese, or even Asian, about the National Grand Theater, Beijing's new opera house. It is just a stone's throw from the Forbidden City and is scheduled to open in 2005. French architect Paul Andreu, who built the space-age Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris, was responsible for the design. "I admire the courage of any leader who made that choice," says Joe Carter, a Canadian architect who has lived in Beijing for 18 years and now works in the office of McBride Kelley Baurer. <b>But Beijingers are less enthusiastic overall. They've dubbed the theater, which is topped by a translucent glass-and-titanium dome, the Alien's Egg and, perhaps less imaginatively, the Giant Doo-Doo.</b>
We at IF have not been following this major issue as we should have. Anyway here is a summary article from Telegraph, 31 May 2007. Note its Modernist outlook.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->INCONSISTENTLY LIBERAL
- In a country as diverse as India, one size does not always fit all 
Mukul Kesavan

<b>The Vadodara art school episode</b> where a student was arrested for exhibiting within his department a painting that local VHP activists, led by Neeraj Jain, deemed offensive to Hindu and Christian sensibilities, and where the dean of his faculty was suspended for supporting his right to self-expression, <b>has drawn a range of comment. Arun Jaitley sketching out the sangh parivar’s position on this has justified the arrest and suspension by characterizing the offence as sacrilege and blasphemy, arguing that such an offence exists even in liberal, permissive Western societies like England. Liberal and/or left-wing artists and writers like Anjolie Ela Menon have condemned the action taken against the professor and the student variously as a sign of intolerance, of political opportunism, of the rise of a Hindu neo-puritanism and plain bigotry. </b>

<b>Vir Sanghvi, writing in the Hindustan Times, came down on the side of artistic self-expression, but made the point that Indian liberals were hard to take seriously because they didn’t take their own liberal convictions seriously.</b> While they were quick to condemn the intolerance of Hindu bigots, their commitment to free speech and self-expression wasn’t much in evidence when Muslims declared themselves offended by, say, the notorious Danish newspaper cartoons that lampooned Islam and its prophet. <b>Their support of free speech was, therefore, not principled but a strategic way of advancing partisan political positions. </b>The problem with Indian political discourse, concluded Sanghvi, was that Indian liberals didn’t take a view in principle that could guide them in ethical or political argument — consequently, <b>every controversy had the same result: an orgy of finger-pointing that did nothing to advance a coherent moral and political position. </b>

One answer to this case would be that the Danish cartoons were a deliberate, public attempt, undertaken with malice aforethought, to offend and stigmatize a vulnerable minority of Muslims in Europe whereas the Vadodara incident involved a poor student who was exhibiting work not with the object of seeking publicity or sparking outrage but for the limited purpose of assessment and evaluation. <b>The point here would be that Indian liberals are being consistent in opposing majoritarian bullying in both cases. From the point of view of liberalism (which in India is often a kind of pluralism) this position is defensible, but it has the drawback of being rhetorically useless. What is being said in effect is that Indian liberals stick up for the underdog, and the underdog is by definition the minority in most arguments.</b> This is not to say Indian liberals are backward in denouncing rabid Muslim utterance (such as the periodic outbursts of the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid); they aren’t—<b>but they are more likely to give the ‘minority’ position the benefit of the doubt. </b>

<b>The problem with this position is that the Indian liberal’s opposition to political Hinduism or Hindutva can be made to appear to be a reflexive tendency to single out Hindus.</b> This has happened in Gujarat to the sangh parivar’s advantage. <b>The Indian liberal, conscious of the fact that the entrenchment of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat has occurred not despite, but because of, the pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat, sees the Vadodara incident as one more step in the Hindu Right’s campaign to destroy, in a fascistic way, institutional autonomy in Gujarat.</b> The sangh parivar exploits this liberal position to illustrate to its Hindu constituency the instinctive hostility of ‘pseudo’ secularists towards Hindus and their feelings.

Many writers and intellectuals who see themselves as liberal or left-wing or both, may well object to this characterization of the liberal position. They might argue that they would impartially and even-handedly object to any kind of censorship, that is, they would oppose the banning of The Satanic Verses in exactly the same way as they currently oppose the the limits placed on young student artist Chandra Mohan’s artistic freedom. And this is, clearly, the classical liberal position, the one that Vir Sanghvi sees as the only consistent one possible. Many Indian intellectuals, Muslims and non-Muslims, attacked the proscription of The Satanic Verses and their willingness to defend a point of principle gives their opposition to censorship in Vadodara a certain weight and moral authority.

But there was another position on The Satanic Verses, one in favour of banning it for prudential reasons. Iqbal Masud, the film critic, argued then that the circulation of the book would lead to Muslim demonstrations against it which would, inevitably, end in police firings and deaths. Masud’s decision to support the proscription of the book was born of his belief that Rushdie’s right to free expression was limited by the need to preserve the peace. Given India’s history of religion-related violence, most people have, when confronted with the question of free speech and violence, debated within themselves the merits of the two positions.

Those of us who can honestly say that had they been the dean of the art college in Vadodara, they would have exhibited a painting that transgressed Islamic taboos in the way the Danish cartoonists did are entitled to denounce the happenings in Vadodara without self-consciousness. <b>Those of us who admit to qualms about what we might have done in that hypothetical circumstance need to address that inconsistency with some humility.</b>

<b>Being inconsistent in these matters is not always a dishonourable position, because liberal inconsistency has some warrant in the history of the republic. The Indian state’s policies were often less than even-handed because it needed to manage anxiety and vulnerability and difference.</b> The decision not to extend the uniform civil code to Muslims, for example, was one of these inconsistencies. Many liberals criticized Nehru’s ‘failure’ to draw Muslims into the ambit of a uniform civil law, but equally there were many who sympathized with his decision because they agreed with his sense that the Fifties was a time when a Partition-torn Muslim community needed reassurance, not ‘robust’ reform. <b>You can argue that the exemption of Muslims bought the young republic time to make its Muslim population feel at home. </b>You can equally argue that it was a timorous and cowardly unwillingness to grasp the nettle which gave the Hindu right a stick to beat secular liberals with.

In a country as diverse and complicatedly troubled as India, one size doesn’t always fit all. But those of us who cite our Republican history as precedent, who argue that circumstances alter cases, and believe that consistency is, sometimes, a poor guide to policy, must also accept that there will be times when our inconsistency will be exploited by our ideological enemies to attack people and institutions that we value.

Pretzel logic because he is using Western critique to fit Indian situation. Liberal/anti-liberal are all Western constructs. India has too many identities that a binary logic will not fit. This is the dilemma of the contemporary Indian elite.

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