Aurangazeb and Islamic compassion-I

8 03 2008

Aurangazeb and Islamic compassion-I

By: V SUNDARAM
Saturday, 08 March, 2008 , 03:45 PM
.

FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism) had organized an Exhibition of Paintings under the theme ‘AURANGAZEB’ as he was’ according to Mughal Records’ in Chennai from 3 to 9 March, 2008.

.

The venue of the Exhibition was ‘Lalit Kala Academi’ (National Academy of Art), Greams Road, Chennai. The exhibition was inaugurated by Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, B Raman, former Additional Secretary to the Government of India and S Gurumurthy, columnist, on 3 March at 5 pm. The inauguration was attended by about 100 people. Prior to the inauguration, a press meet was also conducted. From the next morning onwards, visitors started coming and the numbers gradually increased towards the evening. On Wednesday ( 5 March), a group of Muslims (around 15 people) belonging to the TMMK (Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam), MNP (Manitha Neethi Paasarai) and other Muslim outfits, visited the exhibition hall and spoke in an intimidating manner to the volunteers of the exhibition about the authenticity of the paintings and the historical information that was being exhibited. This newspaper had carried a report about the inauguration of the exhibition.

A few police officers from the local area police station (Thousand Lights-F4) were posted at the venue, because of the ruckus created by the Muslims at the venue of the exhibition the previous day. The Lalit Kala Academi in-charge R M Palaniappan asked the organisers to vacate, in anticipation of problems. The Assistant Commissioner of Police Murali visited the venue, went around the exhibits, questioned the organisers and volunteers, allegedly made some barbarously arrogant remarks and went out. Then, Hindu Munnani president Ramagopalan and VHP office bearer Gopalji made a visit to the exhibition. Gopalji had arranged for the visit of press persons and TV anchors, who all came and covered the exhibition. Tamizhisai Sounderarajan, State deputy general secretary of BJP and her colleagues also visited in the afternoon. Chandralekha, president, Janata Party, Tamilnadu, too had visited the exhibition.

Then around 3 pm on 6 March, Prince of Arcot Mohammed Ali visited and went around the exhibits. He hotly debated and argued with the volunteers present there about the truth and authenticity of the paintings and the information they carried. He expressed the view that all the paintings on display about the atrocities of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (Persian: ???????? (full title: Al-Sultan al-Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram Abdul Muzaffar Muhiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Bahadur Alamgir I, Padshah Ghazi) against the Hindus of India constituted a form of fabricated and distorted history. He questioned the necessity of conducting such an exhibition in Chennai. He also blamed the organisers for having a hidden agenda of inciting communal hatred. Finally he concluded that the exhibition must be closed with immediate effect. Before leaving, he said that he would issue statements through a press meet about the exhibition and that he would also take up the issue with the appropriate authority. The Prince of Arcot in a press release has said, ‘the exhibition seemed to dwell only on Aurangazeb’s alleged misdeeds and not a word about his munificent contributions. The exhibition would only promote enmity between various groups.’ In this context, I wounder weather the Prince of Arcot and other Muslim outfits were promoting communal harmony at all in the real sense at the venue of the exbition?

The Assistant Commissioner of Police who later visited the venue used most unparliamentary words against the organisers including against Francois Gautier who was the main architect behind the exhibition. I have it on the authority of Chandralekha, president, Tamilnadu Janata Party and many other respectable citizens who were present at the venue that the police functioned in a reprehensibly partial manner expressing themselves in open support of the Muslim outfits. After forcing the volunteers to close down the exhibition, the police took four organisers / volunteers ( Saraswati, Vijayalakshmi, Malathi and B R Haran) and one senior citizen (S Raman-a visitor from RSS) into custody and took them to Thousand Lights Police Station after 7 PM. This was in gross violation of the instructions of the Supreme Court of India regarding the procedure to be followed by the police before arresting any person. Moreover the Police had no business to arrest highly educated and cultured women from decent families after 7 PM. Sadagopan, editor, Vijayabaratham, who was there on the spot rushed outside for arranging lawyers for helping the organisers / volunteers illegally apprehended by the police.

The four volunteers, who were detained without any cause in the station, have very decent family backgrounds, are well educated and they have never gone inside a police station even once in their lives so far. The Muslim who had barged in to the hall, created trouble and threatened the volunteers and organisers, were let free by the police. The police had let the trouble shooters free and took only the organisers to the station! A thing like this can happen only in Tamilnadu, where a ‘Minority Government’ runs for the welfare of only ‘Minorities’.

FACT, Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism, was started in 2003 by Francois Gautier, a French journalist and writer who has been covering for 25 years India and South Asia as a political correspondent for numerous newspapers such as Journal de GenËve, Le Figaro, or Ouest-France. All throughout his reporting years, he noticed that most western correspondents were projecting the problems, warts and all, the shortcomings of India, but never its positive points. He also felt that the problems of the Hindus, the majority community of India, are never highlighted, but that rather, they are despised or made fun off. On top of that, their history has been written in such a biased and unscientific manner, that very little of its unparalleled greatness and unique spirituality comes through. Hence when Francois Gautier got a Journalism Prize (Natchiketa Award of Excellence in Journalism) from the Prime Minister of India, he used the prize money to mount a series of exhibitions highlighting the plight of Hindus today and throughout the ages. The first one dealt with the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus, four hundred thousand of them having become refuges in their own country. This exhibition was shown successfully in Delhi, Bangalore, Poland, Germany, Israel, England, and Holland and in the US Congress last July. Another exhibition on the Hindus in Bangladesh is ready, path-breaking project on Aurangzeb’s times has started and one more on the Inquisition in Goa is on the cards. The exhibition that has been illegally closed by the police belongs to this series. What is legal in Delhi, Bangalore, Poland, Germany, Israel, England, Holland and USA, becomes illegal in Tamilnadu, thanks to our enlightened police force.

I will now endeavour to present in a series of well documented articles based on original Islamic sources about the large scale destruction of Hindu Temples in India by Muslim invaders and Rulers from 8th century AD to the end of the 18th century AD. Aurangazeb, the Mughal Emperor, belonged to this anti-Hindu tradition. Sita Ram Goel in his classic volumes Hindu Temples, What happened to them? has furnished irrefutable historical, photographic, epigraphic, literary documentary evidence regarding the large scale destruction of Hindu Temples in India from 700 AD to 1800 AD. To quote his words in this context: ‘The evidence presented in these volumes, from purely Islamic sources, shows that the destruction of Hindu Temples at the hands of Islamized invaders continued for more than eleven hundred (1100) years, from the middle of the seventh century to the end of the eighteenth century. It took place all over the vast cradle of Hindu Culture, from Sinkiang in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South, and from Seistan in the West to Assam in the East. All along, the iconoclasts remained convinced that they were putting into practice the highest tenets of their Islamic Religion. They also saw to it that a record was kept of what they prized as a pious performance. The language of the record speaks for itself. It leaves no doubt that they took considerable pride in doing what they did. It is inconceivable that a constant and consistent behaviour pattern, witnessed for a long time and over a vast area, can be explained except in terms of a settled system of belief which leaves no scope for second thoughts. Looking at the very large number of temples, big and small, destroyed or desecrated or plundered or converted into Muslim monuments, economic or political explanations can be only a futile, if not fraudulent, exercise. The explanations are not even plausible. In fact, it is not at all difficult to locate the system of belief which inspired the behaviour pattern for eleven hundred years. We have only to turn to the Scriptures of Islam – the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, and we run straight into what we are looking for. The principles and the pious precedents which were practiced and followed by the subsequent swordsmen of Islam are, all of them, there. The Scriptures of Islam do not merely record what happened in the past; they also prescribed that what is recorded should be imitated by the faithful in the future, till the end of time. That is why the swordsmen of Islam who functioned in times much later than that of the Quran and the Sunnah, did what they did. It is a very nature of Islamic Scriptures that they make permanent what can otherwise be dated and dismissed as temporary aberrations.”

The scriptures containing the above message are still being taught even today in hundreds of maktab-s and madrasa-s over the length and breadth of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Missionaries of Islam that are turned out by these Institutions, year after year, are never told by their teachers that the prescriptions regarding other people’s places of worship stand abrogated or are out of date. At the same time, the swordsmen who destroyed innumerable temples and monasteries all over the vast cradle of Hindu culture during the last fourteen hundred years, retain their halos as the heroes of Islam. This alone can explain why Hindu Temples become the first targets of attack whenever Muslim mobs are incited against the Hindus by the Mullahs and Politicians in India, Kashmir and Bangladesh.

This story is not the end; not even the beginning of the end but only the end of the beginning.





Aurangazeb and Islamic compassion-I

8 03 2008

Aurangazeb and Islamic compassion-I

By: V SUNDARAM
Saturday, 08 March, 2008 , 03:45 PM
.

FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism) had organized an Exhibition of Paintings under the theme ‘AURANGAZEB’ as he was’ according to Mughal Records’ in Chennai from 3 to 9 March, 2008.

.

The venue of the Exhibition was ‘Lalit Kala Academi’ (National Academy of Art), Greams Road, Chennai. The exhibition was inaugurated by Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, B Raman, former Additional Secretary to the Government of India and S Gurumurthy, columnist, on 3 March at 5 pm. The inauguration was attended by about 100 people. Prior to the inauguration, a press meet was also conducted. From the next morning onwards, visitors started coming and the numbers gradually increased towards the evening. On Wednesday ( 5 March), a group of Muslims (around 15 people) belonging to the TMMK (Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam), MNP (Manitha Neethi Paasarai) and other Muslim outfits, visited the exhibition hall and spoke in an intimidating manner to the volunteers of the exhibition about the authenticity of the paintings and the historical information that was being exhibited. This newspaper had carried a report about the inauguration of the exhibition.

A few police officers from the local area police station (Thousand Lights-F4) were posted at the venue, because of the ruckus created by the Muslims at the venue of the exhibition the previous day. The Lalit Kala Academi in-charge R M Palaniappan asked the organisers to vacate, in anticipation of problems. The Assistant Commissioner of Police Murali visited the venue, went around the exhibits, questioned the organisers and volunteers, allegedly made some barbarously arrogant remarks and went out. Then, Hindu Munnani president Ramagopalan and VHP office bearer Gopalji made a visit to the exhibition. Gopalji had arranged for the visit of press persons and TV anchors, who all came and covered the exhibition. Tamizhisai Sounderarajan, State deputy general secretary of BJP and her colleagues also visited in the afternoon. Chandralekha, president, Janata Party, Tamilnadu, too had visited the exhibition.

Then around 3 pm on 6 March, Prince of Arcot Mohammed Ali visited and went around the exhibits. He hotly debated and argued with the volunteers present there about the truth and authenticity of the paintings and the information they carried. He expressed the view that all the paintings on display about the atrocities of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (Persian: ???????? (full title: Al-Sultan al-Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram Abdul Muzaffar Muhiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Bahadur Alamgir I, Padshah Ghazi) against the Hindus of India constituted a form of fabricated and distorted history. He questioned the necessity of conducting such an exhibition in Chennai. He also blamed the organisers for having a hidden agenda of inciting communal hatred. Finally he concluded that the exhibition must be closed with immediate effect. Before leaving, he said that he would issue statements through a press meet about the exhibition and that he would also take up the issue with the appropriate authority. The Prince of Arcot in a press release has said, ‘the exhibition seemed to dwell only on Aurangazeb’s alleged misdeeds and not a word about his munificent contributions. The exhibition would only promote enmity between various groups.’ In this context, I wounder weather the Prince of Arcot and other Muslim outfits were promoting communal harmony at all in the real sense at the venue of the exbition?

The Assistant Commissioner of Police who later visited the venue used most unparliamentary words against the organisers including against Francois Gautier who was the main architect behind the exhibition. I have it on the authority of Chandralekha, president, Tamilnadu Janata Party and many other respectable citizens who were present at the venue that the police functioned in a reprehensibly partial manner expressing themselves in open support of the Muslim outfits. After forcing the volunteers to close down the exhibition, the police took four organisers / volunteers ( Saraswati, Vijayalakshmi, Malathi and B R Haran) and one senior citizen (S Raman-a visitor from RSS) into custody and took them to Thousand Lights Police Station after 7 PM. This was in gross violation of the instructions of the Supreme Court of India regarding the procedure to be followed by the police before arresting any person. Moreover the Police had no business to arrest highly educated and cultured women from decent families after 7 PM. Sadagopan, editor, Vijayabaratham, who was there on the spot rushed outside for arranging lawyers for helping the organisers / volunteers illegally apprehended by the police.

The four volunteers, who were detained without any cause in the station, have very decent family backgrounds, are well educated and they have never gone inside a police station even once in their lives so far. The Muslim who had barged in to the hall, created trouble and threatened the volunteers and organisers, were let free by the police. The police had let the trouble shooters free and took only the organisers to the station! A thing like this can happen only in Tamilnadu, where a ‘Minority Government’ runs for the welfare of only ‘Minorities’.

FACT, Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism, was started in 2003 by Francois Gautier, a French journalist and writer who has been covering for 25 years India and South Asia as a political correspondent for numerous newspapers such as Journal de GenËve, Le Figaro, or Ouest-France. All throughout his reporting years, he noticed that most western correspondents were projecting the problems, warts and all, the shortcomings of India, but never its positive points. He also felt that the problems of the Hindus, the majority community of India, are never highlighted, but that rather, they are despised or made fun off. On top of that, their history has been written in such a biased and unscientific manner, that very little of its unparalleled greatness and unique spirituality comes through. Hence when Francois Gautier got a Journalism Prize (Natchiketa Award of Excellence in Journalism) from the Prime Minister of India, he used the prize money to mount a series of exhibitions highlighting the plight of Hindus today and throughout the ages. The first one dealt with the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus, four hundred thousand of them having become refuges in their own country. This exhibition was shown successfully in Delhi, Bangalore, Poland, Germany, Israel, England, and Holland and in the US Congress last July. Another exhibition on the Hindus in Bangladesh is ready, path-breaking project on Aurangzeb’s times has started and one more on the Inquisition in Goa is on the cards. The exhibition that has been illegally closed by the police belongs to this series. What is legal in Delhi, Bangalore, Poland, Germany, Israel, England, Holland and USA, becomes illegal in Tamilnadu, thanks to our enlightened police force.

I will now endeavour to present in a series of well documented articles based on original Islamic sources about the large scale destruction of Hindu Temples in India by Muslim invaders and Rulers from 8th century AD to the end of the 18th century AD. Aurangazeb, the Mughal Emperor, belonged to this anti-Hindu tradition. Sita Ram Goel in his classic volumes Hindu Temples, What happened to them? has furnished irrefutable historical, photographic, epigraphic, literary documentary evidence regarding the large scale destruction of Hindu Temples in India from 700 AD to 1800 AD. To quote his words in this context: ‘The evidence presented in these volumes, from purely Islamic sources, shows that the destruction of Hindu Temples at the hands of Islamized invaders continued for more than eleven hundred (1100) years, from the middle of the seventh century to the end of the eighteenth century. It took place all over the vast cradle of Hindu Culture, from Sinkiang in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South, and from Seistan in the West to Assam in the East. All along, the iconoclasts remained convinced that they were putting into practice the highest tenets of their Islamic Religion. They also saw to it that a record was kept of what they prized as a pious performance. The language of the record speaks for itself. It leaves no doubt that they took considerable pride in doing what they did. It is inconceivable that a constant and consistent behaviour pattern, witnessed for a long time and over a vast area, can be explained except in terms of a settled system of belief which leaves no scope for second thoughts. Looking at the very large number of temples, big and small, destroyed or desecrated or plundered or converted into Muslim monuments, economic or political explanations can be only a futile, if not fraudulent, exercise. The explanations are not even plausible. In fact, it is not at all difficult to locate the system of belief which inspired the behaviour pattern for eleven hundred years. We have only to turn to the Scriptures of Islam – the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, and we run straight into what we are looking for. The principles and the pious precedents which were practiced and followed by the subsequent swordsmen of Islam are, all of them, there. The Scriptures of Islam do not merely record what happened in the past; they also prescribed that what is recorded should be imitated by the faithful in the future, till the end of time. That is why the swordsmen of Islam who functioned in times much later than that of the Quran and the Sunnah, did what they did. It is a very nature of Islamic Scriptures that they make permanent what can otherwise be dated and dismissed as temporary aberrations.”

The scriptures containing the above message are still being taught even today in hundreds of maktab-s and madrasa-s over the length and breadth of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Missionaries of Islam that are turned out by these Institutions, year after year, are never told by their teachers that the prescriptions regarding other people’s places of worship stand abrogated or are out of date. At the same time, the swordsmen who destroyed innumerable temples and monasteries all over the vast cradle of Hindu culture during the last fourteen hundred years, retain their halos as the heroes of Islam. This alone can explain why Hindu Temples become the first targets of attack whenever Muslim mobs are incited against the Hindus by the Mullahs and Politicians in India, Kashmir and Bangladesh.

This story is not the end; not even the beginning of the end but only the end of the beginning.





Police vandalism in full light

8 03 2008

POOR Prince of Arkat, he seems to be suffering from selective amnesia when he forgets things otherwise. History is History and Aurangzeb can never be ISLAM and when he tries to say otherwise and ban the exhibition he is actually doing more harm than any help.

Prince of Arcot welcomes decision to close exhibition
Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Prince of Arcot, Abdul Mohammed Ali, on Friday said the controversial exhibition on Mughal monarch Aurangazeb, which was closed prematurely on the advice of the police, had the potential to disrupt communal harmony.

In a statement, he said it “seemed obvious that the effect of such an exhibition would be to promote enmity between various groups, thereby vitiating the peaceful atmosphere of coexistence of different religions in the city and the State of Tamil Nadu.”

In this context, everyone interested in communal harmony, secularism and national integration would welcome the decision of the police to terminate the exhibition. The measure would go a long way in preventing untoward incidents and maintaining harmony and religious tolerance that had made Tamil Nadu a shining example for the rest of the country, he said.





Aurangzeb and his censors

8 03 2008

Aurangzeb and his censors
Saturday March 8 2008 07:55 IST

ADITYA SINHA (NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)

FARIKH Mirza was my closest friend when I was pursuing a master’s degree in London, even though we made an odd combination in most eyes, for he was the British son of Pakistani immigrants, and I the American son of Indian immigrants. Farikh’s sister was married during the summer of dissertation writing, and one of the young men at the nikaah ceremonies in High Wycombe was named Aurangzeb.

It was the first time that I encountered anyone named Aurangzeb, and Farikh’s explanation was simple. No Muslim in India would dare name their boy after a king the Hindus thought was a real bastard, Farikh said; in Pakistan, on the other hand, Aurangzeb is a hero, so he makes for a common name. We had a good laugh (those were innocent days), and for me it provided another philosophical lesson on the importance of point of view.

Laughter and philosophy were in short supply when Aurangzeb made an appearance in Chennai this week. The last of the expansionist Mughal emperors was the subject of an exhibition of documents and paintings at the Lalit Kala Akademi, put together by Delhibased journalist Francois Gautier, whose conservatism resonates with that of India’s right-wing. (In this he’s not the only European with such views; author Michel Houellebecq — one of today’s greatest living writers — has said he had the greatest contempt for Islam; English enfant terrible Martin Amis is now called a ‘Blitcon’ for his views on Muslims, which have deeply angered people like my old friend Farikh).

In the West, however, even the countless European liberals who lambast Houellebecq or Amis for their political views would become angrier at any suggestion to ban these authors’ books. That is not so in our country. If you recall, India was the first country in the world to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988; the fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini came afterwards, and who knows, the Iranians might not have bothered had India not made such a hullabaloo.

Last year, India banned Taslima Nasreen’s autobiography — four years after it was published — and some suspect the violence that erupted in Kolkata on November 21, 2007, was engineered by the Left Front government in order to divert attention from the continuing violence in Nandigram. In 2003, the Maharashtra government banned James Laine’s book on Shivaji, but not before highly erudite mobs of the Shiv Sena went on a rampage attacking even those academics who were given credit in the manuscript.

In 1996 and in 2002, mobs tried to destroy MF Hussain’s paintings, which depicted Hindu deities in a, well, earthy manner. Hussain has had to flee the country. And Deepa Mehta had to film Water, a story dealing with widows in Varanasi, not in the holy city but in Sri Lanka, because mobs burnt down the set during her first attempts to film on location.

This culture of censorship in our country goes against our Constitution, which advises only reasonable restrictions on the Right of Expression. Outright banning is not a reasonable restriction. In any case, censorship is less a constitutional matter than a political one, and in a highly polarised society like ours, everyone always seems to keep an eye out for banning some form of artistic expression.

Take the Aurangzeb exhibition. The political overtone of such an exhibition is a secret to no one. After all, if Aurangzeb were alive today, he’d be called an Islamist; he spent most of his 49 years of reign at war (25 of them in the South), so you could even say he was al Qaeda before its time. Unlike Osama bin Laden, though, Aurangzeb did not have a business to finance his wars, and so he resorted to looting the traditional storehouses of wealth in medieval rural India — the temples.

An exhibition about Aurangzeb would thus obviously be a conservative project (it’s unlikely an exhibition celebrating Aurangzeb has ever been held, even in Pakistan). Obviously, no one with even the remotest pride in the Mughal heritage would have visited the exhibition. Come to think of it, how many people visit galleries or museums these days to look at genuinely good paintings, and how many of them are serious students of art, art history, or aesthetics? Even art buyers do their commerce on the internet these days; they may visit a gallery for a look at an actual canvas only after a work is shortlisted for purchase. In normal course, the Aurangzeb exhibition would have concluded this weekend without registering on too many people’s consciousness.

Yet it just took a visit by an angry citizen to the ruling party, and the police were promptly at the Lalit Kala Akademi to shut down the show. The result: those ideologically against the exhibition got their publicity; those supporting the exhibition became martyrs and got their publicity; and even the Lalit Kala Akademi, the worst form of bureaucratisation of art, got some publicity as well. You can’t help but be cynical about the protestors’ motives — if you disagree with a painting, then why not counter it with a painting yourself? Why throw it out?

What’s more disturbing is the refusal to see another point of view. We are rapidly assimilating a fractured epistemology because we refuse to see things in the way that others might; it goes against our own tradition of an ontology that is composite rather than reductionist. Is it any wonder that people keep predicting a hung parliament well into the future? Is it any wonder that people feel that so far as inter-religious harmony goes, things are going to get far worse before they ever get better?

One of the consequences of all the time I spent with Farikh Mirza was that I learnt a lot from him, in a way that one cannot learn from reading or traveling. It helped me in my career: I spent a lot of time in Kashmir and in Northwestern Pakistan, and I made many friends that a lot of other journalists might not have. I credit it all to my getting to see Farikh’s point of view, such as the one on boys named Aurangzeb. What is worrying about these bans on art is that when my son grows up, he may not be able to laugh at the world the way I did with my friend Farikh.

Chennai turns back on Aurangzeb
8 Mar, 2008, 0323 hrs IST, IANS

ECONOMIC TIMES

CHENNAI: An art show at the prestigious Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) here curated by journalist Francois Gautier was at the receiving end of moral policing when an exhibition on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was shut down.

Stating that it had received three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony, police on Thursday night burst into the exhibition, shut it down forcibly, took into custody three women associated with the hosting of the exhibition and seized some of the works on display.

The exhibition of 40 paintings, including exceptional miniatures by noted Indian artists, gathered together by Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) were on show at the LKA from March 3. The show included farmans (edicts issued by Aurangzeb) from the Bikaner museum and other material on Aurangzeb. It also contained two pictures depicting Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple in Gujarat and the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

The organisers said they had the right to freedom of expression and the right to exhibit a show that had travelled all over India.

LKA regional secretary R M Palaniappan told the media he “should have screened the exhibits more carefully”. Joint Commissioner of Police P Balasubramanian later told the media: “We feared it might create a law and order problem.” The three women from FACT, Saraswathi (65), Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47), were picked up from the show at about 7.30 p.m. and taken to the police station, where they were allegedly held for nearly an hour without being allowed to contact their families or any lawyer.





Aurangzeb and his censors

8 03 2008

Aurangzeb and his censors
Saturday March 8 2008 07:55 IST

ADITYA SINHA (NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)

FARIKH Mirza was my closest friend when I was pursuing a master’s degree in London, even though we made an odd combination in most eyes, for he was the British son of Pakistani immigrants, and I the American son of Indian immigrants. Farikh’s sister was married during the summer of dissertation writing, and one of the young men at the nikaah ceremonies in High Wycombe was named Aurangzeb.

It was the first time that I encountered anyone named Aurangzeb, and Farikh’s explanation was simple. No Muslim in India would dare name their boy after a king the Hindus thought was a real bastard, Farikh said; in Pakistan, on the other hand, Aurangzeb is a hero, so he makes for a common name. We had a good laugh (those were innocent days), and for me it provided another philosophical lesson on the importance of point of view.

Laughter and philosophy were in short supply when Aurangzeb made an appearance in Chennai this week. The last of the expansionist Mughal emperors was the subject of an exhibition of documents and paintings at the Lalit Kala Akademi, put together by Delhibased journalist Francois Gautier, whose conservatism resonates with that of India’s right-wing. (In this he’s not the only European with such views; author Michel Houellebecq — one of today’s greatest living writers — has said he had the greatest contempt for Islam; English enfant terrible Martin Amis is now called a ‘Blitcon’ for his views on Muslims, which have deeply angered people like my old friend Farikh).

In the West, however, even the countless European liberals who lambast Houellebecq or Amis for their political views would become angrier at any suggestion to ban these authors’ books. That is not so in our country. If you recall, India was the first country in the world to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988; the fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini came afterwards, and who knows, the Iranians might not have bothered had India not made such a hullabaloo.

Last year, India banned Taslima Nasreen’s autobiography — four years after it was published — and some suspect the violence that erupted in Kolkata on November 21, 2007, was engineered by the Left Front government in order to divert attention from the continuing violence in Nandigram. In 2003, the Maharashtra government banned James Laine’s book on Shivaji, but not before highly erudite mobs of the Shiv Sena went on a rampage attacking even those academics who were given credit in the manuscript.

In 1996 and in 2002, mobs tried to destroy MF Hussain’s paintings, which depicted Hindu deities in a, well, earthy manner. Hussain has had to flee the country. And Deepa Mehta had to film Water, a story dealing with widows in Varanasi, not in the holy city but in Sri Lanka, because mobs burnt down the set during her first attempts to film on location.

This culture of censorship in our country goes against our Constitution, which advises only reasonable restrictions on the Right of Expression. Outright banning is not a reasonable restriction. In any case, censorship is less a constitutional matter than a political one, and in a highly polarised society like ours, everyone always seems to keep an eye out for banning some form of artistic expression.

Take the Aurangzeb exhibition. The political overtone of such an exhibition is a secret to no one. After all, if Aurangzeb were alive today, he’d be called an Islamist; he spent most of his 49 years of reign at war (25 of them in the South), so you could even say he was al Qaeda before its time. Unlike Osama bin Laden, though, Aurangzeb did not have a business to finance his wars, and so he resorted to looting the traditional storehouses of wealth in medieval rural India — the temples.

An exhibition about Aurangzeb would thus obviously be a conservative project (it’s unlikely an exhibition celebrating Aurangzeb has ever been held, even in Pakistan). Obviously, no one with even the remotest pride in the Mughal heritage would have visited the exhibition. Come to think of it, how many people visit galleries or museums these days to look at genuinely good paintings, and how many of them are serious students of art, art history, or aesthetics? Even art buyers do their commerce on the internet these days; they may visit a gallery for a look at an actual canvas only after a work is shortlisted for purchase. In normal course, the Aurangzeb exhibition would have concluded this weekend without registering on too many people’s consciousness.

Yet it just took a visit by an angry citizen to the ruling party, and the police were promptly at the Lalit Kala Akademi to shut down the show. The result: those ideologically against the exhibition got their publicity; those supporting the exhibition became martyrs and got their publicity; and even the Lalit Kala Akademi, the worst form of bureaucratisation of art, got some publicity as well. You can’t help but be cynical about the protestors’ motives — if you disagree with a painting, then why not counter it with a painting yourself? Why throw it out?

What’s more disturbing is the refusal to see another point of view. We are rapidly assimilating a fractured epistemology because we refuse to see things in the way that others might; it goes against our own tradition of an ontology that is composite rather than reductionist. Is it any wonder that people keep predicting a hung parliament well into the future? Is it any wonder that people feel that so far as inter-religious harmony goes, things are going to get far worse before they ever get better?

One of the consequences of all the time I spent with Farikh Mirza was that I learnt a lot from him, in a way that one cannot learn from reading or traveling. It helped me in my career: I spent a lot of time in Kashmir and in Northwestern Pakistan, and I made many friends that a lot of other journalists might not have. I credit it all to my getting to see Farikh’s point of view, such as the one on boys named Aurangzeb. What is worrying about these bans on art is that when my son grows up, he may not be able to laugh at the world the way I did with my friend Farikh.

Chennai turns back on Aurangzeb
8 Mar, 2008, 0323 hrs IST, IANS

ECONOMIC TIMES

CHENNAI: An art show at the prestigious Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) here curated by journalist Francois Gautier was at the receiving end of moral policing when an exhibition on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was shut down.

Stating that it had received three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony, police on Thursday night burst into the exhibition, shut it down forcibly, took into custody three women associated with the hosting of the exhibition and seized some of the works on display.

The exhibition of 40 paintings, including exceptional miniatures by noted Indian artists, gathered together by Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) were on show at the LKA from March 3. The show included farmans (edicts issued by Aurangzeb) from the Bikaner museum and other material on Aurangzeb. It also contained two pictures depicting Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple in Gujarat and the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

The organisers said they had the right to freedom of expression and the right to exhibit a show that had travelled all over India.

LKA regional secretary R M Palaniappan told the media he “should have screened the exhibits more carefully”. Joint Commissioner of Police P Balasubramanian later told the media: “We feared it might create a law and order problem.” The three women from FACT, Saraswathi (65), Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47), were picked up from the show at about 7.30 p.m. and taken to the police station, where they were allegedly held for nearly an hour without being allowed to contact their families or any lawyer.