The depiction of Muslims as terrorists in Kailash Tiwari's painting exhibition “The Face of Terror” in Bhopal and the blasphemous posters sketching the Holy Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) at the M.S. University campus in Vadodara at the instigation of M.S. University Senate member and former BJP students' wing activist Deepak Shah followed by Chandramohan's presentations offending the various religions and faiths, have once again raised the question of art for art's sake versus art for the sake of morality or for that matter humanity at large.
Tiwari's paintings, which feature Osama bin Laden and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, also depict people in beard and wearing religious cap attacking India and the Parliament. That the practitioner of hate rather than fine arts aimed at targeting a specific community is palpably obvious. But he forgot that Muslims do not endorse terrorism in any form as it stands in sharp contrast with the ideals of Islam.
It is a relief to know that the painter has removed 10 paintings from the exhibition, and local authorities have asked him to wind up the exhibition after Muslims raised objections to it notwithstanding radical Hindu organisations coming in support of the painter.
But the case in Vadodara is more serious as it amounts to blasphemy. Hate mentality is now so much ingrained in the psyche of a section of society that offers are being made to create hate! Deepak Shah offered a Rs. 1 lakh award daring anybody to “offend Islam the way Fine Arts Faculty student Chandramohan's works had offended the religious sensibilities of Christians and Hindus.” If Chandramohan blasphemed against certain faiths, he must be prosecuted for that. And that too he had not acted at the instigation of any follower of Islam. But what Shah did is rabidly provocative and highly deplorable and condemnable. It is in the fitness of things that one Farid Lakhajiwala filed a complaint against those responsible for making and distributing the controversial posters as well as against Shah for his controversial offer. The case was made out under Sections153 (a), 153 (b), 295 (a), and 114 of the Indian Penal Code – the same as those pressed against Chandramohan for his art works.
As many as 15 youths were arrested for rioting, and combing operations were on in full swing in walled city areas. But the proactive police did not take any action against Shah for his provocative statements and offer of a reward.
It is a travesty of justice that Muslims are hounded, persecuted and even killed and when they come out to protest these injustices they are once again beaten, detained and killed. This we have seen in Hyderabad and Vadodara in the recent days. And the irony of ironies is that the real miscreants go scot-free and get fresh zeal to further hatred.
The incidents have also underlined the need to redefine the term 'freedom of expression'. We are born free; we breathe freely; we live freely; but this does not mean that we are the master of this universe and we are at liberty to kill anyone, malign anyone or hurt anyone's sensibility just in the name of exercising our freedom of expression. So we can ensure happiness in life and smooth functioning of society only when we subordinate our 'freedom of expression' to certain fundamental principles.
As for art for art's sake controversy, we should see to it that whatever we create or produce anything, right from a needle to the most sophisticated weapon, should be in the service of humanity rather than satisfying the baser instinct of the creator.
All these tragic incidents are ample proof of the presence of persons with communal and fascist leaning in the rank and file of our State and police machinery. The peace loving citizens of the country are worried that the UPA-led Manmohan Singh administration is bearing the hate juggernaut with all ease. This is high time the Muslim leadership made joint, concerted efforts to break this silence of the Government at the Centre, and thus contributed their mite to save the nation from further degeneration.