It will not be hard to recall the name of Chandramohan Srilamantula. The master’s degree student of Department of Graphics at the Fine Arts College in Baroda who was jailed for displaying artworks in the faculty evaluation show which a Methodist pastor and a local BJP man found objectionable. The BJP man with his supporters vandalized the show and later filed a FIR against the student for ‘misusing religious symbols and causing religious offence’ and got him arrested by a nonbailable warrant. The date was 9 May 2007. One year has past after the incident in the life of democratic India. By now, everybody must have forgotten it.
However, at the heat of the moment it seemed like the democratic minded citizens of Baroda, Gujarat and India would remonstrate on the issue until they reestablish the dignity of the student and institution. The artists went for a peaceful hunger strike, arranged another campus exhibition on the erotic depiction of religious symbols from the 2500 years history of Indian art as a protest against the vandalism. The university authorities forcefully closed this exhibition and suspended the acting Dean of the Faculty Mr. Shivaji Panikkar for allowing such a vulgar show. National English language media highlighted the issue through editorials, headline news, protest articles and prime time discussions. The reaction looked genuine as it was directly related with the cliché ‘freedom of expression’. On this subject our watchdog media always over reacts. All over India, artists and citizens came on street to voice their concern. Two committees were formed to probe the incident. One by the MS University and the other by the Governor of Gujarat. Though none of the reports were officially made public.