• “Ideologies of bigotry cannot be allowed to determine who can create art, where they can create it, what its content can be or what artists can wear while making it, even if that bigotry is being endorsed by a law enforcement agency.”

    Writers, Artists and Academics

    February 17, 2020

    Image courtesy: Niha Masin | Twitter

    We, the undersigned, express solidarity with the young artists who were subjected to intimidation and discrimination at and by the India Art Fair (IAF) on the 2nd of February 2020. We strongly condemn the absolutely unethical and prejudiced attitude displayed by the Fair management towards these artists.

    On the 2nd of February, a group of artists were participating in an invited live-art performance at the India Art Fair on the theme of strength of women and communal harmony, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources. A musician was also performing in the same booth. 

    The police disrupted the programme on account of an anonymous complaint, intimidated the participating artists, and proceeded to shut down the performance entirely. The officials at IAF did not intervene on behalf of the artists at this or any other point during the time that the police were present and interrogating them. In fact, officials from IAF were aggressive with the artists, refused to listen, shouted at them, and even tried to have the artwork removed from the wall. The festival director is reported to have come to the booth and failed to extend support to the artists, as well. Eventually, the artwork was thrown on the floor by Delhi Police, and the booth was sealed by IAF. Thereafter, the artists went outside where the police proceeded to question them on the use of Urdu poetry and calligraphy in the work. But after the poetry (excerpted from a well-known ghazal by Iqbal) was translated for them, the police decided there was nothing there which could be called an offence and said that there would be no further action taken. However, they did ask for and note down the name of the ‘artist in the hijab’. They revealed that the anonymous “complaint” they received informed them of ‘an artwork at IAF being made  by someone wearing clothes resembling the women sitting in Shaheen Bagh’. This line of inquiry openly targeted and discriminated against the female Muslim artists wearing hijab who participated in the programme. When the artists returned to the booth after the police left, the artwork was nowhere to be found and has since been untraceable. 

    Throughout this time, the officials at the fair, instead of stepping in and listening to the artists and examining the situation fully, abdicated their responsibilities and left the artists and the curator to reason and negotiate with the police. The key question remains why IAF not only failed to stand by the artists but were also active participants in the harassment meted out to them. They have further later claimed to the police and public that they had no knowledge that the event was happening, which has since been proved to be false as the artists leading the programme have publicly shared the invitation in which the event is listed. This invitation had been widely circulated at and prior to the fair. Other artists at the fair have even attested to this. 

    The abdication of responsibility by IAF and their absolutely unjustifiable treatment of the young artists is not acceptable. In fact, given the details of this case, IAF’s behaviour is itself absolutely discriminatory. This episode reveals a shocking lack of knowledge  as well as regard for the culture of the very country that the fair claims to represent. Moreover, it is not acceptable to allow artists’ expression to be curtailed on account of an anonymous complaint, especially when that complaint reeks of nothing but deep seated and reprehensible Islamophobia. The fact that the art fair has tried to insulate itself from the ongoing movement against CAA, NRC, and NPR by creating a "zero-tolerance" policy against banners and sloganeering is a troubling violation of the right to dissent. That this policy was framed in terms of "safety" is ignorant and misleading given that those participating in this non-violent movement have actually been at the receiving end of brutal violence in the form of lathi-charge, beating and, even, bullets at hands of security forces and law-enforcement agencies. That the same agencies were allowed to target and intimidate young artists on the basis of an Islamophobic complaint is an unacceptable lack of sensitivity towards the vulnerability of marginalized peoples in this current political milieu. Ideologies of bigotry cannot be allowed to determine who can create art, where they can create it, what its content can be or what artists can wear while making it, even if that bigotry is being endorsed by a law enforcement agency.

    Indian artists deserve and demand more support from platforms that sell their work and claim to represent the artistic community of the country. Are the politics of art works only to be profited from (there were some explicitly political artworks at other booths which were artistic comments on the abuse of the constitution in several ways) but not defended when the vulnerabilities and dangers that accompany having those politics play out at our fairs and galleries? The question also must be asked about the role hierarchy plays in deciding whether artists get the support they need from  art institutions. All of these artists are very young and only starting out their careers with an admirable commitment to make their art a site of engagement with the society they live in.

    We stand by their conviction to make their art practice speak of solidarities, express dissent and celebrate diversity. We demand that the India Art Fair apologise to them.

    1. Preksha  tater, Artist, SURAT
    2. Annapurna Garimella, Jackfruit Research & Design, New Delhi
    3. Kathyayini Dash, University of Cape Town, PhD Performance, Cape Town
    4. Akhilesh Arya, Independent, Gurgaon
    5. Amar Kanwar, Artist, New Delhi
    6. Gauri Gill, Artist, New Delhi
    7. Shivangi Singh, Artist, New Delhi
    8. Latika Gupta, Delhi
    9. Sheila Makhijani, Artist, New Delhi
    10. Rakhi Peswani, Bangalore
    11. Anupama Srinivasan, Filmmaker,
    12. Paribartana Mohanty, Artist, New Delhi
    13. Ankita Srivastava, M.Phil Visual Studies,  SAA, JNU, New Delhi
    14. Shefalee Jain, Artist, New Delhi
    15. Shivani Kasumra, MPhil Student, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
    16. Kshiraja, Art + design,
    17. Rohini Devasher, Delhi
    18. Anna Dasgupta, Gurgaon
    19. Vaskar Mech, JNU, Delhi
    20. Anupam, Visual Artist, New Delhi
    21. Gitika debnath, SFI, JNU Unit, Delhi
    22. Anupam Saikia, Visual Artist, New Delhi
    23. Aishwarya Walvekar, Theatre and Performance Studies Research Fellow, , Delhi
    24. Shrishti, Agency, Bangalore
    25. Lalita, IIT Delhi, Delhi
    26. Arundhati Chauhan, New Delhi
    27. Anurupa, Artist, Delhi
    28. Souradeep Rpy, Theatre/ Literary translator, Kolkata
    29. Santhosh S., AUD, New Delhi
    30. Rajdeep Konar, IIT Delhi, New Delhi
    31. Gayatri Sharma, New Delhi
    32. Narendran Nair, Student, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, VADODARA
    33. Indira Chowdhury, Public History, Bengaluru
    34. Priyanka D’Souza, Artist, MUMBAI
    35. Vasvi Oza, Artist, Art Educator, Bangalore
    36. Suresh kumar G, Artist, Bengaluru
    37. Shriya Kalra, Art student, Baroda
    38. Divvya Mishra, MPhil Scholar, Visual Studies, SAA, Delhi
    39. Jay Patel, Student ( BA hons. Philosophy), MSU Baroda,, Baroda
    40. Parth Trivedi, NAPM, Gujarat, Baroda
    41. Rohan, Student, Delhi
    42. Nishant, Actor, Delhi
    43. Agastaya, Research, Delhi
    44. Ameet Parmeswaran, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
    45. Palak, ,
    46. jagdish chand, freelance writer – designer- translator, delhi
    47. Kavita Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
    48. saba hasan, artist, new delhi
    49. Sania, IIT Delhi, New Delhi
    50. Aastha Banerjee, Student at JNU, New Delhi
    51. Sanchayan Ghosh, Visual art and Academic Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
    52. Balbir Krishan, Artist, New York
    53. Tehsin, Journalism and Communication, Vadodara
    54. Karan Kapoor, , New Delhi
    55. Bula Bhattacharya, Visual Artist, NOIDA
    56. Lokesh, Artist, Delhi
    57. Deepti Mulgund, Kunsthistoriches Institut in Florenz, Berlin
    58. Chinmaya Solanki, Student, Vadodara
    59. Vivek Gupta, SOAS University of London, History of Art, London
    60. Vaishnavi Ghatge, Literature, Delhi
    61. Anita E Cherian, Ambedkar University Delhi, Delhi
    62. Mrinalini Sil, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi
    63. AVIK DEBDAS, Art Student, Delhi
    64. Rukmini, Student, Bangalore
    65. Belinder Dhanoa, Ambedkar University Delhi / writer, Delhi
    66. Vasudha Thozhur, Artist, Greater Noida
    67. Rini Dasgupta, , Delhi
    68. Bazik Thlana, Artist, New Delhi
    69. Ankur Arora, Ma Visual arts, New Delhi
    70. Ghazala parveen, Artist, Delhi
    71. farheen bano, artist, delhi
    72. Sahej Rahal, Artist, Mumbai
    73. Stuti, Student, New Delhi
    74. Ranjan Azad, New delhi
    75. Suraj Thakur, Patna
    76. Parvej Ahmad, Bareily
    77. Yousuf Saeed, Tasveer Ghar, New Delhi
    78. Sharmila Samant, Artist, Greater Noida
    79. Asma, Artist, New Delhi
    80. nikhileswar baruah, artist, vadodara/guwahati
    81. Anirban, Research Scholar, New Delhi
    82. Shivangi kalra, College of Art, Delhi
    83. Arjun m, Visual art, Delhi
    84. Bolan Gangopadhyay, Freelance journalist & Human rights activist, Kolkata
    85. Saruha, Student, Delhi
    86. Mahima Ahluwalia, Art Student, Delhi
    87. Ashish Dha, NAADAALAY, New Delhi
    88. Sumitra, Independent Curtaor, Bangalore
    89. Sana, Teacher, India
    90. Chinar Shah, , Bangalore
    91. Meenakshi Thirukode, , New Delhi
    92. Sarada Natarajan, Art historian, Bangalore, Karnataka
    93. Atul Bhalla, Artist, New Delhi
    94. Navraj Choudhury, Student, New Delhi
    95. Ita, Artreach India, Delhi
    96. Puneet Kaushik, Artist, New Delhi
    97. Vivek Premachandran, Artist / Graphic Designer, New Delhi
    98. Bishnupriya Dutt, SAA, JNU, Delhi
    99. Suresh B V, Fine Arts, S N School, UoH, Hyderabad
    101. Preetha Kannan, Artist, Mumbai
    102. Shreya Sahai, Student, New Delhi
    103. Pallavi Paul, Artist, New Delhi
    104. Sudeshna, , New Delhi
    105. Adwait Singh, Visual Arts, New Delhi
    106. Vebhuti Duggal, Ambedkar University Delhi,
    107. Sandip K Luis, Researcher, New Delhi
    108. Jyothidas K V, Artist, New Delhi
    109. Raam Jator, Artist, Chandigarh
    110. Aryakrishnan R, Visual Artist, Cochin
    111. Jatin Sharma, IIT Delhi, New Delhi
    112. Subhrojyoti Mukherjee, Publishing, Visual Arts, Mumbai
    113. Arundhati Ghosh, Arts Professional, Bangalore
    114. Mallika Prasad, Actors Ensemble India Forum (AEIF), Bangalore
    115. Shamya Dasgupta, Journalist, Bengaluru
    116. Ajitha G S, Publishing, Bangalore
    117. Deepika B, Ambedkar University Delhi, New Delhi
    118. Anubhav stal, Round them oranges, Jaipur
    119. Anupama Chandra, Film, New Delhi
    120. Nalini B, Mysuru
    121. [email protected], JNU, New Delhi
    122. Sabitha Satchi, Curator and writer, Delhi
    124. Komita Dhanda, Jana Natya Manch, Delhi
    125. Reyansh Naarang, Nazariya LGBT/ Activist, Delhi
    126. Nevish, We embrAce / Human rights and animal rights, New Delhi
    127. Snigdha Tiwari, ,
    128. Quasar Thakore Padamsee, Theatre, Mumbai
    129. Prerna, Artist, Trondheim\Delhi
    130. Siddhant, Writer, Baroda
    131. Sharvari Deshpande, Student, Vadodara
    132. Sunil Shanbag, Mumbai
    133. Nimi Ravindran, theatre, Banaalore
    134. Shiva Pathak, Arts Administrator, Bangalore
    135. Sohrab Hura, ,
    136. Nimi Ravindran, Theatre, BANGALORE
    137. Akansha Rastogi, Researcher and curator, New delhi
    138. Subba ghosh, Artist, Delhi
    139. Abhijeet Tamhane, Art Critic, Mumbai
    140. Chithra K. S., Art, Baroda
    141. Rahul Gudipudi, The Story of Foundation, Goa
    142. Alita Chandra Wig., Art, New Delhi
    143. Amala Dasarathi, Lawyer, Delhi
    144. Arshad hakim, , Bengaluru
    145. Dr. Mohan Rao, Researcher, Bangalore
    146. Yashodhara Dalmia, Art Historian, New Delhi
    147. Rosalyn Dmello, Writer, Delhi
    148. KAUSHAL KUMAR SONKARIYA, Jamia Millia Islamia/Fine Art, New Delhi
    149. Shivaji K Panikkar, Retired professor/Art Historian, Delhi/Vadodara
    150. Lnv srinivas, Teaching, Hyderabad
    151. Shalmali Shetty, MA Curatorial Student, GSA, Glasgow
    152. Rimli Bhattacharya, Writing, Translation, Art and Cinema, Delhi
    153. Priyadarshini Ohol, Artist, Dharamshala / Mumbai
    154. Renuka Rajiv, None, Bangalore
    155. Manuela Ciotti, Aarhus University, Aarhus
    156. Sabeena Gadihoke, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
    157. Charanjit Singh, Sculpture, Chandigarh
    158. Krupa, Birkbeck, University of London, London
    159. Nikhil KC, Artist, Delhi
    160. Boris Colin, Visual Art, London
    161. Annalisa Mansukhani, , New Delhi
    162. Shruti Karmarkar, Theatre, Pune
    163. Subhajit Maity, Theatre, Kolkata
    164. Anarya, Artist and art educator, Delhi
    165. Srirupa Prasad, University of Missouri-Columbia/Education, Columbia, MO, USA
    166. Ayesha Aggarwal, Visual arts, Mumbai
    167. R.V. Ramani, Filmmaker, New Delhi
    168. Navneet Kaur, Art Student, Chandigarh
    169. Sarita Chouhan, Art, Mumbai
    170. Christin Glauser, theatre/transdisziplinary work, Zürich
    171. Jitender, Poet and Theater Artist, Delhi
    172. Seraina Dür, Artist, Zurich
    173. Bobby Sayers, Independent artist, Rotterdam, Netherlands
    174. Anja, Academic Researcher, Zurich and Basel Switzerland
    175. Carmen José, Visual art, Rotterdam
    176. Mishta Roy, Design, Bangalore
    177. Adam Turl, Artist, editor at Locust Review, Instructor at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
    178. benjamin meyer-krahmer, academy of fine arts leipzig, berlin
    179. dabumayanglambam, Individual, Mapusa
    180. Cyril Sam, Independent journalist, New Delhi
    181. Ishita Biswas, visual art, Ghaziabad, UP
    182. Meghna Singh, New Delhi
    183. swadha, psychologist, mumbai
    184. Parvez Imam, Performance and Visual artist, Basel
    185. Mustafa Khanbhai, Artist, Goa
    186. susanne winterling, artist, trondheim/berlin
    187. MK Rao, vismayah, NEW DELHI
    188. Aban Raza, Independent, New Delhi
    189. Sanjib Mukhopadhyay, Individual, Kolkata
    190. Bhamati S, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
    191. Manmeet Devgun, Artist, Delhi
    192. Probir Gupta, New Delhi
    193. Priya Chauhan, Collection Manager of a private collection in Delhi., Delhi
    194. Kaushal Kumar Sonkariya, Jamia Millia Islamia/visual art, Delhi
    195. Saba Dewan, Film maker, Gurgaon
    196. Dipanwita Donde, Researcher – Art History, New Delhi
    197. K.Satchidanandan, Writer, Delhi
    198. Pushpamala N, Artist, Bangalore
    199. Sashi Kumar, Media, Chennai
    200. Debjani Sengupta, Academic, Delhi
    201. Jaya Neupaney, Winter School on Art/Law, Los Angeles
    202. Vidur Sethi, Artist, Delhi
    203. Shaunak Mahbubani, Curator, Delhi
    204. Manishikha Baul, Independent performing artist, Delhi-NCR
    205. Sanchita Sharma,  PhD student in Culture and Performance, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
    206. Ishani Butalia,  Delhi
    207. supriya seth, 
    208. Kokila Bhattacharya, Art, BHOPAL
    209. Jyotsna Siddharth, Actor, Delhi
    210. I , Archana Shastri am in solidarity with CWST., Director, Museum
    211. Siem Reap, CambodiaShaista Anwar, Academic, art historian, New Delhi
    212. Irfan Zuberi, NaadSaagar Archives & Documentation Society for South Asian Music/Audiovisual Archives, Delhi
    213. Nirali Lal, Artist, vadodara
    214. Ayesha Parikh, Art consultant, Mumbai
    215. Kaustubh Naik, JNU, NEW DELHI
    216. Sakhinala Santhosh Kumar, , Hyderabad
    217. Mandeep Raikhy, Gati Dance Forum/ AUD, New Delhi
    218. Premjish Achari, Curator and Art Historian, New Delhi
    219. Manmeet sandhu, Visual arts, Delhi
    220. Dr. Varunika Saraf, Artist and Art Historian, Hyderabad
    221. Sukanya Deb, ,
    222. B Ajay Sharma, Visual Artisy, Chandigarh
    223. Mahima Bhayana, Miniature Painting, Delhi
    224. Kaushal Kumar Sonkariya, Jamia Millia Islamia/ Fine Arts, New Delhi
    225. Deepikah, Artist, Bangalore
    226. Karthik Venkatesh, Editor and Writer, Bangalore
    227. Sahil Arora, Method Art Space, Mumbai
    228. Githa Hariharan, ,
    229. archana hande, Artist, Mumbai
    230. Chandrakant Patil, Writer, Poet, Pune
    231. Salim Yusufji, ,
    232. Mallika Sarabhai, Performance artist activist, AHMEDABAD
    233. Devaki Khanna, Freelance editor, Bangalore
    234. Dr.Shoma A.Chatterji, Journalism and authorship, Kolkata
    235. This discrimination must be stopped without any further dealy., Academic, Writer, NEW DELHI
    236. SG Vasudev, Artist, BENGALURU
    237. Amit Bhaduri, Economics professor., Delhi
    238. Vibha Maurya, Delhi University, Delhi
    239. Saad Ahmad, Journalist, Delhi
    240. Javed Malick, Academic (Retired), Delhi University, Delhi
    241. Rongili Biswas, Music, literature, Kolkata
    242. Sudhanva Deshpande, LeftWord Books and Jana Natya Manch, New Delhi
    243. Gyan Prakash, Princeton University, Princeton
    244. Heemanshu Sharma, Sounds of Democracy, Delhi
    245. Sonam Chaturvedi, Artist, New Delhi
    246. Shaibani Azam, AJKMCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
    247. Samira Bose, Art Worker, New Delhi
    248. Vidisha, Arts & Music, Delhi
    249. Stuti Mamen, Santiniketan
    250. Abhishek Hazra, Artist, Bangalore
    251. Smytta Yadav, Anthropology, London
    252. Saleem Peeradina, Professor and writer,
    253. Bidisha Mahanta, , Delhi
    254. Smriti Mehra, Artist, Bangalore
    255. Saumya Baijal, Independent writer and poet. Ad person., Gurgaon
    256. Nilanjana Nandy, Artist educator, Gurgaon
    257. Nihaal Faizal, , Bangalore
    258. Mamta Sagar, Poet, Bengaluru
    259. Koustav Nag, Artist, Delhi
    260. R Srivatsan, Culture and philosophy, Hyderabad
    261. Nilima Sheikh, Painter, Vadodara
    262. Rahul Bhandare, Comic Artist, Mumbai
    263. Sama Haq, Critical Collective, Delhi
    264. Snigdha, ,
    265. Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi, Knowledge solution, New Delhi
    266. Rita Datta, Art writing, Kolkata
    267. Shireen Saudamini Mubayi, Student, New Delhi
    268. Noor Vasundhara Mubayi, School, New Delhi
    269. Vera Leisibach, Artist, Luzern (CH)
    270. Ajit Kumar, JNU, New Delhi
    271. Dr. Nirmala Biluka, Artist/ Assistant Professor, Hyderabad
    272. Yugashri S A, Art, Bengaluru
    273. Kaushal Sapre, Artist, Researcher, New Delhi
    274. Surycaroline, , MARSEILLE
    275. Rudy Loewe, Rudy Loewe, London
    276. Raisa Kabir, Artist, London
    277. Krishnapriya C P, Visual Artist, Chennai
    278. Pallavi Arora, Visual Arts, New Delhi
    279. Ishita Sharma, PhD student, Visual Cultures, Delhi/ London
    280. Abhinit Khanna, Independent Arts Manager, The Fort Art Center, Mumbai
    281. Ruchika, Advertising, New Delhi
    282. Annika, Academics, New Delhi
    283. Aditya Joshi, Student, New Dehi
    284. Rashmimala, Visual Artist, Vadodara
    285. Hrishitonoy Dutta, Visual Art, Delhi
    286. Phalguni Desai, Goethe-Institut Mumbai, Mumbai
    287. Siddharth Sarathi, pune
    288. Nishant, Actor, Delhi
    289. Ranjana Dave, Artist and Academic, New Delhi
    290. Ishita Biswas, Visual Art, Ghaziabad
    291. Asmita Rangari, Independent Curator/ Visual Arts’ Practitioner,
    292. Nancy Adajania, Cultural theorist and curator, Bombay
    293. Orijit Sen, Artist, Goa
    294. Chitra Ganesh, Visual artist, New York
    295. Ayisha Abraham, Freelance artist, Bangalore
    296. Atreyee Day, Art in Community, Kolkata
    297. Supriya,  folk arts & craft, Jaipur
    299. Ali Akbar Mehta, Museum of Impossible Forms, Helsinki/Mumbai
    300. sumedh rajendran, artist, new delhi
    301. Subhashini Ali, 
    302. Deeptha Achar, Vadodara
    303. Kushal, Design, Delhi
    304. Shailesh Kumar, Birkbeck, University of London/Criminology, London
    305. saba hasan, artist, new delhi
    306. Vidyun Sabhaney, artist, Delhi
    307. Shoma Chatterji
    308. MA Baby
    309. Nayantara Sahgal
    310. KP Fabian
    311. Shruti Sarkar, Visual Practices, New Delhi
    312. Lokesh Khodke, Artist, New Delhi
    313. Shukla Sawant, Artist and Academic
    314. Sindhura D.M. Jois, Art Historian
    315. Adil Kalim, Artist, New Delhi

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