New Delhi: A section of artists and intellectuals on Thursday expressed their shock over the government asking organisers of an exhibition in China to remove an artwork depicting the Gujarat riots.
The video footage is by Tejal Shah, an artist from Mumbai, and is part of the exhibition, Indian Highway, currently on at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing.
Condemning the move to remove the work, artists belonging to the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), in a statement, said: "I Love My India (2003) by Shah, a young multimedia artist, had been exhibited in India and abroad and the ministry of external affairs advise to remove the work violates the right to free speech in the country".
"That its subject is communal killings in Gujarat in 2002 is only indicative of the fact that many contemporary artists in India have focused on communal, political and social problems which we have faced in the last two decades. We have fought hard to uphold the right to free speech which is a pillar of democracy," SAHMAT said.
"It is ironic that our government would seek to censor the exhibition in China because the exhibition was in a private space and has not been sponsored by the government. Even if it had been, such censorship is totally unacceptable," it said.
The statement said the ministry should immediately withdraw the advisory and the video should be reinstated right away.
The statement was signed by Ram Rahman, Vivan Sundaram, Geeta Kapur, Dayanita Singh, Shireen Gandhy, M.K. Raina, Madangopal Singh, Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Devika Daulet Singh, Ranjit Hoskote, Parthiv Shah, Vidya Shah, Indira Chandrasekhar, Rajendra Prasad, Gigi Scaria, Atul Dodiya and Anju Dodiya, among others.
The ministry refused to comment on the issue.