CHENNAI: An art exhibition hosted at Loyola College in the city has stirred debate around freedom of expression after a few BJP leaders and social media users on Monday termed the exhibits as "anti-national" and "anti-Hindu" and subsequently, a faculty of the college issued an apology.
The artworks were exhibited in the college campus on Saturday and Sunday. A source in the college told Express that the artworks were contributed by the students and alumni of the college. They were kept on display in view of the festival being organised in the college campus to celebrate traditional folk arts.
Ranging from satirical paintings to caricatures on current affairs, it covered wide-ranging issues like the Sterlite protests, the Syrian war, farmer suicides. What caught the attention of the BJP leaders on Monday, a day after the event was over, were a set of artworks that were critical of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits.
Shocking! Loyola college Anti Govt Images Exhibition part 2 (they displayed 60 anti Hindu anti BJP anti Modi images in an exhibition on front lawn for Pongal time carnival! Shame ! pic.twitter.com/wC87c7w4ng— BUSHINDIA (@BUSHINDIA) January 20, 2019
Loyola College has for decades been one of our finest educational Institutions. They should not permit anything that can hurt religious sentiments and should not allow their college to be used for political purposes. This is just wrong. https://t.co/MR5KLoNyiB— Sumanth Raman (@sumanthraman) January 21, 2019
These are pics of an ‘art exhibition’ organised at Loyola college. Make no mistake. It is Hindus and Hindu Dharma that they hate - not just Narendra Modi. Modi is hated because he is seen as a leader of the Hindus. But it is US the Jamaat-E-Fiberal hates. People like you and me. pic.twitter.com/k78GdHGf6Y— Shefali Vaidya ஷெஃபாலி வைத்யா शेफाली वैद्य (@ShefVaidya) January 20, 2019
Among the paintings that the BJP people found offending was the one depicting Bharat Mata with the popular hashtag # MeToo, a movement that brought to light sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
Another, titled ‘Rafale Deal’, shows the petals of the lotus – BJP’s symbol – as rats. A painting showed the 'Tirusoolam' violating a woman's genitals. Some illustrations depicted the alleged involvement of right-wing groups in journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder, while others mocked the Swachch Bharat scheme of the central government and the 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections from the general category.
BJP's National Secretary H Raja took to Twitter to express his condemnation and tweeted that he had met the Director General of Police and filed a complaint against the college. The party's state president Tamilisai Soundararajan said her "blood was boiling" on seeing the artworks. She also charged that in the name of denigrating Hindu gods, women were belittled in the portraits displayed there.
“The opposition leaders had kept silence over these objectionable paintings. Had these paintings criticised the other faiths, all these leaders would have made a hue and cry by this time,” she said. She said they have given up plans for protests against the college since the college has apologised.
Following the statements of the BJP leaders and a few of the party cadres assembled in front of the college on Monday, a statement by a college faculty was circulated to the Press. "We are deeply pained, saddened and equally anguished that the venue to conduct a cultural event, Veethi Virudhu Vizha, held on 19th and 20th Jan 2019 has been misused, our illustrious and pluralistic campus was used for derogatory exhibits against a particular religious group, social institution, political party and the country's leadership," said a statement circulated to the Press on Monday by one Dr Kaleeswaran, coordinator, Arts and Literary Unit, LSSS, Loyola College.
Responding to the allegations, a Loyola College faculty member issued an apology for displaying 'derogatory exhibits against a particular religious group, social institution, political party and the country's leadership.' In the statement, he said that all the exhibits were removed once the issue was brought to the notice of the college.
When contacted by Express, college officials refused to comment on the issue. Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan also lashed out at the Tamil Nadu government.