Free Chandramohan

Posted by sepoy on May 12, 2007 · 7 mins read

Chandramohan Srilamantula is a final year post-graduate student in Graphics at Fine Arts department at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, Gujarat. In 2006 he received the Lalit Kala National Akademi Award for his work. As part of his final examination, along with other students, he put up his graphic print installations in the Faculty building. His submissions were “Durga Slaying Krustacean” and “The Beautiful Vexation” — figuring ten-headed deities, resembling Ganesh, Vishnu and another featuring a Cross was “untitled”. These installations, closed to the public, brought a mob led by BJP goon Niraj Jain and police authorities who promptly arrested Chandramohan and roughed up the faculty and staff of the department. This video - on the left side - shows the installation being attacked by the goons.

Chandramohan is being charged under sections 153A, 114, and 295 of the Penal Code for "promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc, commiting acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public."

He was denied bail and transferred to Central Jail. Emboldened by this, BJP is demanding that all faculty and students in the department be suspended or expelled. The University has suspended Dean Shivji Panikker who publicly backed Chandramohan.

Please spread this news. Write a letter to Indian media. Publicize this across emails and blogs. Baroda has been the site, recently, of communal violence led by the BJP. This guy, Niraj Jain, was also involved in that earlier incident of demolishing a Sufi dargah. Not to mention his involvement in the Gujarat massacre - "Muslims will have to live the way we want otherwise we will pull them out of their houses and kill them".

It is time to work against the tyranny of hatred spread by the likes of Niraj Jain and Rev. Emmanuel Kant.

Below the fold is a letter to the Human Rights Commission written by the Faculty at MS University.

11th May, 2007
The Chairman
National Human Rights' Commission
New Delhi

We are hereby soliciting your immediate attention to a grave crisis and danger that we the faculty and students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, The M.S. University of Baroda, Baroda are faced with.

On 9th May, 2007, while the Faculty was in the final stages of its annual examination, a VHP/BJP leader, Mr. Niraj Jain, descended on the Faculty and pounced upon certain paintings that were on display as part of the examination work declaring them to be an insult to religion. We may underline the fact that the “display” of the works by the students was for the purpose of evaluation by the external jury and not for public exhibition and the entry to it was restricted.

Mr. Niraj Jain and the mob came accompanied by the police and the local media. While a student, S. Chandramohan, whose work it was, and a friend of his (who had come from Andhra Pradesh), were whisked away and put behind bars, Mr. Niraj Jain and his cohorts held the faculty and students to ransom for over 5 hours subjecting them to insults and humiliations in the presence of a contingent of policemen including
officers. The In-charge Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Shivaji Panikkar, received the worst of these. The violent incident disrupted the examination process and brutally violated the autonomy of the University. The police had entered the University campus without seeking the Vice-Chancellor's permission, and allowed a mob of known rabble rousers to take over. Although the friend of Chandramohan was released the same day, Chandra Mohan himself, arrested by the police without an arrest warrant, continues to remain behind bars or the third day. This is shocking and unprecedented in the history of the university.

Even more shocking has been the response of the University authorities. Far from standing up to the assault on the autonomy and jurisdiction of the University they have made common cause with the perpetrators of the assault. Instead of taking legal action against the mob and its leader, and file a FIR against them for disrupting examinations and infringing upon the autonomy of the University, they have put pressures on the faculty and the In-charge Dean, Prof Panikkar, to tender an apology for hurting public opinion.

With the Faculty having refused to comply with this unprincipled diktat, the University has today in the late afternoon sealed the Office of the Department of History to which Prof. Panikkar belongs and in the late evening issued an order suspending him from the University. In tandem with this outrageous act, Mr. Niraj Jain has filed an application
with the police seeking the inclusion of Prof. Panikkar as a co-accused in the FIR against Chandramohan. Both the students and the Faculty are now being threatened with dire
consequences. There is now an acute danger to their safety and a drastic curtailment of their fundamental rights as citizens of a democratic country. Contrary to this an
application filed by students of the Faculty against the offence committed by Mr. Niraj Jain to the police asking the latter to file an FIR against Mr. Jain for criminal trespass, intimidation, and unlawful disruption of the examination procedure of a reputed University has been ignored by the police. The result is that we have been left to the mercy of the mob. Day after day, hour after hour, we are being subjected to verbal attacks and threats of vengeance and destruction conveyed through the media. Given
the stark and ignominious complicity of the University authorities, the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro-Vice Chancellor with the police and goons in this sordid drama we are left
with no alternative but to appeal to you for intervention for the protection of our lives and security. We want you to intercede with the University administration, the
Chancellor of the University and the Governor of Gujarat who is the Visitor to the University to ensure the same. Over and above this the examination being of the final year Masters has been left incomplete and seriously jeopardizes the future of the students.

Yours sincerely
Faculty and students, Faculty of Fine Arts
The M.S. University of Baroda



pass the roti on the left hand side Stop Locking Up the Wrong People | May 12, 2007

[...] (Via Chapati Mystery) [...]

Qalandar | May 12, 2007

This story merely underlines (yet again, as if any reminder were needed) that Gujarat has come very far down the path of fascism. For no other word can describe the workings of the political dispensation; and so deep is the malaise that it extends across party lines: forget the BJP, the opposition too is intimidated or complicit (indeed it was the Congress-controlled Ahmedabad municipal corporation that was the most complicit in the erasure of the tomb of the poet Vali Gujarati in the 2002 pogroms).

Shashwati’s Blog Blog Archive Saffron Brigade as Art Critics | May 14, 2007

[...] 2nd Update: Here is a video of the incident (via Chapati Mystery) [...]

Global Voices Online India: Bloggers on art, morality, government and freedom of expression | May 14, 2007

[...] at Maharaja Sayajirao University was first assaulted by “goons” and then arrested. Chapati Mystery reminds us that Baroda is in a state that suffered the wrath of communal violence. Zigzackly has an [...]

guruappa | May 15, 2007

what the hell is going in my beautiful city of Baroda? this is an antithesis to what i have come to believe while growing up in the city. this is supposedly the "cultural capital" of Gujarat. and also i believe the culture of hinduism is to absorb others' ideas into itself and evolve. i have always believed that Gujarat is one of the better places to live in India. Don't make me believe otherwise.

AD | May 15, 2007

Gujarat is the Sangh Parivar's Afghanistan. Who knows what horrors it has in store for the rest of India and the rest of the world... The next 9/11 might not be perpetrated by Muslims...

P Patel | May 15, 2007

THE DEATH THROES OF MSU? Once a reputed centre of tertiary education with countless number of alumni from all faculties strewn across the world, is now a pariah. It is on the verge of being disowned not only by the UGC, but shunned by past students and teachers who are shocked and shamed at the latest debacle unfolding globally, unfortunately for university administrators, across the internet. It is bad enough to witness the academic demise of one's alma mater across the last two decades, but watching political fanaticism mocking the very tenets of democracy, of which all Indians are supposedly proud of, is positively blood curdling. The university is an institution, which needs to be properly administered and protected by those empowered to do so, including the Vice Chancellor, Syndicate/Senate Members, etc. Instead we are witnessing a debacle where the highest authority turns on his institute, sanctioning the violation of free expression and education on the flimsy excuse of immorality, that too in a land steeped and proud of its heritage such as Khajurao, Kama Sutra and the likes. Vibrant Gujarat indeed!!! The Mahatma and Sardar Patel would most certainly cringe wherever they in their heavenly abodes. The question begs to be asked whether the institute should shelter and tolerate these people. Therein lies the root of evil that has been plaguing MSU over the last few decades. Instead of a focus on academic excellence, mediocrity in all spheres has ruled the roost. Academic excellence dipped, national grants disappeared, dependence on the state government increased, thus allowing any ruling party to exert extraordinary influence on the university's governance, including the appointment of vice chancellors of their choice, irrespective of their credentials and standing, and most importantly their ability to enhance the organisation's stature. We have a situation where syndicate/senate members are either political stooges or have been muzzled to rubber-stamp critical decisions that could undermine the university's credibility and standing. There used to be a time when academic luminaries were syndicate/senate members, but not any more, as political inclination is a preferable prerequisite. More disturbing is the rise in religious political fanaticism in what should be the tranquil surroundings of a flourishing university. Ishwar, Allah, Ram, does it really matter where education is concerned. One suspects that there is more to just immorality than meets the eye about the current fracas. Students, teachers, deans of faculties, syndicate/senate members, the PVC and VC are all party for the above debacle which represents some of the murkiest depths an educational organization can dip to. MSU is now a laughing stock. One used to take pride in being a MSU degree holder. Not any more, thanks to a crescendo of mediocrity, breeding acceptance of all that is anathema to true democracy, freedom of expression and education. The manner in which this incident has unfolded reminds us of the Taleban in Afghanistan. Are we fostering and encouraging our own “talebans' who run amuck protecting the society's 'morals', while flagrantly thumbing their noses at fundamental societal rights and law? If this is so, are we encouraging a 'superior race' (shades of Nazism) who are irreproachable and not answerable to common law and societal norms. Citizens of Baroda, students and teachers of MSU, show some spine and courage and stand up for all that is fair, truthful, legal and most importantly, what is necessary to reverse this downward vortex of destruction the organization is speeding through. March through the streets, express your feelings to the VC, syndicate/senate members, harangue the State Education Minister and Chief Minister, clog the internet and daily press. Remember, state elections are approaching and in 1974, MSU students were at the forefront of overthrowing the then state government. We are a proud state and have been prosperous too, but this needs to be bolstered by a robust educational system. While MSU is in the news, other universities in Gujarat will certainly have their own horror stories to tell. Mediocrity is like a delicate exotic fruit, one does pay dearly for scarcity. Why should Gujarat put up with mediocrity, as it breeds all sorts of evils.

zalman | May 19, 2007

Outrageous! This reminds me of the dustup the "moral majority" raised over Andres Serrano's photograph "Piss Christ" back in 1989. Along with other such attacks, as many may remember, it led to legislative gutting of funding through the National Endowment for the Arts, especially for "controversial" projects, along with increasing timidity over exhibiting them. Such attacks should be fought with any and all resources at your disposal. As an interested party, I followed this story through a variety of blogs, and found one set up a few days ago by the Fine Arts Faculty at MSU: For what it's worth, there's a link there to an on-line petition condemning the Baroda attack, located at I know its ultimate political effect may be minimal, but I signed anyway (under my real name). Yours in support....