Yogesh Avasthi, Mumbai Mirror | Aug 17, 2013,
The simmering tension between India and Pakistan had a searing impact on the art scene in the city with rowdy Bajrang Dal members vandalising a popular art gallery in Ahmedabad on Friday.
This time the provocation was a quiet group exhibition by Indo-Pak artists in Amdavad ni Gufa. The vandals destroyed the collection of paintings by 11 Pakistanis and six Indians to ‘protest’ the ceasfire violation of Pakistani troops along the LoC and killing of Indian soldiers.
While policemen were deployed at the venue on the first two days of the event, which had started on August 13, there was no cop present at the gallery when the saffron brigade members barged in. They screamed abuses at Pakistanis and went about breaking window panes, damaging furniture and tearing 30 paintings.
“The ruffians, around 25 of them, entered the gallery around 4 pm and ransacked the venue within 10 minutes. They damaged all the paintings on display and even broke the window panes. ‘While Pakistan brutally kills our soldiers, we are busy promoting their art. They should be taught a lesson,’ some of them shouted,” said an eyewitness.
Ravindra Maradia, the exhibition’s organiser, said: “The exhibition was an attempt to showcase the evolution of art in both the countries in the past 66 years. About six months ago, the paintings by Pakistani artists were on display at Hutheesing Visual Art Centre, too. But there was no protest then. We thought we won’t face any trouble here. But we were obviously wrong.”
Calling it a “mindless act of cowardice”, Maradia said, “On the first day, a local artist did object to inclusion of work by Pakistani artists. But he was civil in the way he communicated his displeasure. I respect differences in opinion, but why this? Why should they damage an art gallery? They did not even spare the works of Indian artists. I have suffered a loss of not less than Rs 10 lakh.”
But Bajrang Dal justified its attack saying it was symbolic of “trampling our enemies”.
“Pakistan has time and again resorted to indiscriminate and unprovoked firing, beheading our soldiers mercilessly. How selfish it is of the organiser then to hold an exhibition of works by Pakistanis? We had earlier warned him not to go ahead with the show. But he did not pay heed to us and that compelled us to do what we did today,” said Jwalit Mehta, city president of Bajrang Dal.
In 2006, the Bajrang Dal had vandalised the gufa to register a protest against MF Husain‘s painting of Mother India. Earlier too, the gufa has been vandalised by the same outfit to protest against the paintings of Goddess Saraswati made by Husain.