Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb : Kanchan Gupta (Pioneer daily)

9 03 2008


Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb
DAILY PIONEER

Artistic freedom in increasingly ‘secular’ India has come to mean the right to denigrate Jesus Christ and Goddess Shakti, as was done by a callow student of the fine arts faculty of Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda last year. But permission to exhibit exquisite miniatures and firmans related to Aurangzeb has been denied, because 15 Muslims and a bogus nawab have demanded so.

French journalist Francois Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) has painstakingly — and at great expense — put together a collection of 40 miniatures and firmans that tell the story of Aurangzeb’s rule. The exhibition is called Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal records. “We have taken care to present all facets of Aurangzeb, including his piety,” says Gautier.

The collection was first exhibited to critical acclaim at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi. It next travelled to Pune where one lakh people visited the show. It was equally well received in Bangalore where the popular Gallery G hosted the exhibition. FACT then decided to take the collection to Chennai where it was supposed to be exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi from March 3 to 9.

The exhibition was inaugurated by N Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, and B Raman, security expert and former R&AW official, March 3 at 5 pm. Some 100 people attended the inauguration. Since March 4, a continuous stream of people came to see the exhibits.

On March 5, a group of 15 Muslims (Gautier says “they were no more than six”) affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, Manitha Neethi Paasarai and other Muslim organisations, entered the exhibition hall and confronted FACT volunteers who were present there. Raising their voice, they rubbished the show and alleged that it did not portray the right image of ‘their’ Aurangzeb.

“They threatened they wouldn’t allow the show to go on, that they would send hundreds of protesters after Friday prayers from a nearby mosque,” says Gautier. The organisers lodged a complaint with the local police station and the next day policemen were posted at Lalit Kala Akademi.

Meanwhile, RM Palaniappan, manager of Lalit Kala Akademi, rattled by the protest by 15 men, asked FACT to pack up and leave. He panicked after Assistant Commissioner of Police KN Murali visited the exhibition hall, had a cursory look at the miniatures and firmans (written in Persian and hence unintelligible to him), worked himself into a rage and shouted at the organisers, lacing his diatribe with expletives, before stomping off, threatening to return.

On March 6, Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali made a surprise visit to the exhibition at 3 pm. After spending some time looking at the miniatures and the firmans, he lashed out at FACT volunteers and accused them of “misrepresenting facts”. He was particularly enraged by two miniatures — the first depicted Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple and the second showed the destruction of the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

He insisted that the paintings amounted to “fabrication and distortion of history” and that Aurangzeb had never done anything to harm the Hindus. He demanded that the exhibition be immediately shut down and said he would take up the issue with “higher authorities” in the State Government. Later, the ‘Prince of Arcot’ issued a Press statement, claiming, “the exhibition seemed to dwell only on Aurangazeb’s alleged misdeeds and not a word about his munificent contribution. The exhibition would only promote enmity between various groups.”

By Thursday, March 7, “higher authorities” in Tamil Nadu Government had issued instructions to the police to shut down the exhibition. Murali, along with his men, stormed into the exhibition hall on Thursday evening and began taking down the paintings. “He was looking for the paintings showing the destruction of Somnath and Kesava Rai temples. He threw them to the floor,” said a FACT volunteer.

The police say they acted after receiving “three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony”. They wanted the exhibition to be shut down immediately as the next day was Friday. The police also forcibly took into custody three FACT volunteers — Saraswathi (65), D Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47) — although women cannot be detained after sunset in police stations. They were not allowed to contact their families.

The hall has been sealed and FACT has no idea about the fate of the paintings and other exhibits, including the priceless firmans. “I am told some of the paintings have been damaged beyond repair. This is shocking, especially because what we have witnessed is vandalism by the police,” says Gautier.





Aurangazeb and Islamic compassion-I

8 03 2008

Aurangazeb and Islamic compassion-I

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

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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 expo abruptly closed

7 03 2008

Aurangzeb expo abruptly closed
Friday March 7 2008 08:42 IST

G Babu Jayakumar (New Indian express chennai)

Newindpress.com

CHENNAI: An ‘artistic exhibition on Aurangzeb’ at the Lalit Kala Akademi was closed on Thursday, four days after it opened, reportedly after it assumed political overtones.

The Akademi asked the show’s organisers to vacate the hall though it was booked till March 9. On Thursday morning, Assistant Commissioner of Police K N Murali and the regional secretary of Lalit Kala Akademi, R M Palaniappan, who wanted to seal the doors to the show, were forced to retreat as a phalanx of politicians from Hindu groups and Janata Party leader V S Chandralekha arrived.

The police and Akademi official feared that two paintings on display could incite communal passions. Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, who visited the exhibition, called it ‘a bunkum’. He said it was ‘cooked up history’ and he could challenge the authenticity of documents on display.

He confronted Chandraleka and the other volunteers of Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT), who had put together a series of documents and paintings under the title ‘Aurangzeb as he was according to Moghul records’, questioning them on the necessity of organising the show.

Ramagopalan and his followers refused to remove the two ‘potentially controversial’ paintings – one on the demolition of the Saranath temple in Gujarat in 1669 and the other having vignettes of the destruction of Keshava Rai temple at Mathura (1669) and the building of a mosque – but offered to put a veil over them.

Palaniappan said he received a written complaint from an advocate Jainauddin, who described the exhibits as ‘objectionable’. He said several people had also called him to express their displeasure.

Admitting that he had failed to screen the exhibits before the display, Palaniappan said he had the powers to call off an exhibition any time. Francois Gautier, a Delhi-based French journalist who had planned the show, told this website’s newspaper that police refused to provide protection.





Press coverage : Aurangzeb Exhibition Chennai

7 03 2008







Looking back at history: Aurangazeb Exhibition

23 01 2008

Looking back at history

RANA SIDDIQUI

New Delhi gets a peep into history through Francois Gautier’s exhibition.

Photo: V.V. KRISHNAN

PROJECTING HISTORY Francois Gautier against the backdrop of his exhibits.

Not often does an exhibition of Indian paintings serve a historical purpose. Hardly a painting exhibition in Delhi now has any recall value either. The only recent venture that comes to mind is Mahakranti, an insightful exhibition of 120 historical cartoons covering the period from 1855 to 1860. Mounted by Professor Pramila Sharma, it aimed at showing the conspiracy that triggered the 1857 Uprising. This exhibition, Pramila claims, was the first of its kind in the world. Also, in the last year, the city saw artist Veer Munshi’s much forgotten exhibition of paintings and installations depicting the pain of the uprooted Kashmiri Pandits and extremist activities in the Valley.

But of late, there has been an interesting turn of artistic events in the Capital. Some exhibitions are not only likely to raise a debate, but also have nostalgia value. One of them is Sabia’s works on the romantic side of Ghalib’s life. It just concluded at India Habitat Centre. And the next is an exhibition of watercolour works and drawings on “Aurangzeb, as he was, according to Moghul Records”. This exhibition now mounted at Open Palm Court from this Friday till coming Tuesday, is brought by famous French journalist and historian François Gautier. It highlights the cruel side of Aurangzeb, Emperor Shah Jahan’s sixth son.

If in one exhibit you see Shah Jahan being imprisoned by Aurangzeb, the other shows his son, Aurangzeb’s brother, prince Dara Shikoh being taken a prisoner while fleeing to Persia. Dara, said to be Shah Jahan’s favourite son, was imprisoned by Aurangzeb because he opposed his atrocities on the Hindus. The disgraceful burial of Shah Jahan on Aurangzeb’s command, the demolition of Hindu temples and so on are portrayed in other canvases. Banning of established Hindu schools and public worship, re-employment of Jaziya tax on the Hindus, Shivaji’s son Shambhaji’s execution, and his acceptance of “hard labour” that he put in to capture Shivaji, and much more form the other exhibits. All these works are accompanied with dates as sourced from various historic documents including Persian Maasir-i-Alamgiri.

Unknown painters

These works are made by some known and some unknown miniature artists from Jaipur including well-known artist Sumeendhra. Professor V.S. Bhatnagar of Jaipur University along with Gautier gave details of the events to the painters to bring alive the barbaric events.

The exhibition is the part of a two-year project under Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism – FACT, formed in Delhi in 2003. Through this exhibition, the works will travel across the globe. Gautier aims at “portraying Aurangzeb as a terrorist”.

Says Gautier, an Indophile living in India for 35 years and an expert in Indian history, “I don’t understand why Indians treat Aurangzeb as a noble man. Why do Indians refuse to accept history as it is?”

But at the same time, many agree that he has conveniently forgotten the good deeds of the emperor in the form of huge donations for temple building at Banaras and Allahabad. “Its authentic documents are in Banaras math. Also Pandit Vishwanath Pandey, former Governor of Orissa, saw authentic documents procured by Municipal Chairman of Allahabad,” says Bhatnagar. At the same time, he seems to care little about the religious frenzy India is known for.

Counters Gautier, “I had certain exhibits showing his good side too. But because of paucity of space I am not exhibiting them. People ask me why I am bringing alive the buried ghosts. Sometimes I fail to understand why I have done that. I am a Westerner and a non-Hindu. I just wish that it raises a healthy debate among the right thinking people.”