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Pious zeal bugs art

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Abhirup Bhunia:

Several instances have demonstrated to what extent different forms of art are constantly put in jeopardy endangering freedom of expression coupled with artistic liberty thereby putting into debate two key aspects: Freedom and Faith.

Religious convictions were put in place at a time when dogmatism did not feature in the thesaurus of creeds. Also, other apprehensions weren’t just born in mind simply because the notion that religious dedication could come in the way of other forms of human devotion like art, were not contemplated at all.

When the word democracy is flamboyantly uttered by bigheads of democratic states, the biting wit which emerges, bites off the very flesh of the skin called democracy leaving behind very little to chew over. Constitution guarantees, not just provides, the right to freedom of ex-pression to every individual. At the same time, tolerance towards other religions is a part of the Indian constitutional offerings. Lets not complicate things by saying one religion is more tolerant than the other and so on. Straight to examples, Taslima Nasreen, the bold authoress who did not shy away from disclosing the truth behind the veil became the subject of censure and object of assailment. Her straightforward anti-Islam comments in her novels and articles incensed a faction of fundamentalists who launched attacks on her and announced monstrous cash rewards to those who could blacken her face publicly or for that matter just slay her. Her novel ‘Dikhondito’ that was the immediate cause of enragement in Kolkata, had in actuality let out some of the harsh realities that were both women centric and critical of Islam in a sense. Valiantly she bared it all in every one of her books — whether it was her uncle abusing her in childhood, or her sexual tryst with men who were public persons. But since pretense and concealment is the way of life, the writer circle practiced disbarment with her as many well known authors pushed for banning her works. Various self proclaiming Islam ruled groups protested, castigated and jabbed her and her works. For, even if the fact that truth is bitter is shunned where is the artistic freedom or simply the constitutional freedom of ex-pression? MF Hussain, perhaps nowadays known more for denouncing Indian citizenship, is a case in point. His was a classic example of artistic freedom being curtailed to zilch. Was it ignorance on the part of resisting groups, extra-cynicism on part of Hindus, or simply the fact that what the artist had in mind while painting the deities did not get to the people’s eyes or heart? Or was it simply a group of pseudo-religious fanatic rogues who knew little of art and perhaps even little-r about religion? Hard to figure out! Artists or creative persons are often deemed as existing in a vein above normal people, implications of whom on most cases go beyond ordinary understanding and perceptibility. Factions like VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena although did find reason enough to pulverize all of MF Hussain’s arty creations that were on display. He was constantly to live under fear of assault or incessant trepidation for exercising his artistic liberty that the art constitution provides, if that itself is not clear of the brains of ostensible hoarders of misconstrued and flawed religious sentiments. Putting that out of our mind, how many times was he able to cite freedom of ex-pression, the fundamental right, as a defender of his works? There were innuendos from the infuriated masses that being a Muslim he was ridiculing Hinduism. The tentacles of religious fervor could not wait but spread to films even after aesthetic and consecrated subjects like painting and books was not spared. Before instancing movies, publicity stunt allegations must be ruled out. The Sikh community saw red when Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Love Aaj Kal’ was supposedly causing offense to Sikhism. When on earth did the creative imagination of a director become liable to religious emotions or the ersatz form of it? People mind find irony in the fact that the director was from a different religion. Cartoon is insinuative and witty at the same time and for cartoonists, sanctions on their imaginative flair or clipping their creative wings which are to be flapped would mean death of the old and esteemed art form called cartoon. Several murder attempts form the Muslim community had been made to assassinate Kurt Westergaard, the cartoon illustrator of Jyllands-Posten who depicted Prophet Mohammad in a bomb turban in the toon strip of the paper. Now that might sound blasphemous at first hear or first look but this was at a time when Islamic fundamentalists created havoc worldwide. This by the way is just a fact being provided, not a justification to the cartoon since art itself is strong enough to justify Kurt’s work. The cartoon could seem mockery to religionists. The case was similar to Hindu activists who thought Hussian’s portrayal of Durga was scornful. The artists would perhaps urge people to stay away from and spare art. Oxford describes art as, ‘The ex-pression of creative skill in a visual form such as painting or sculpture’. This very ex-pression of creativity has propelled these men to sketch things that would exhibit artistic abilities. Salman Rushdie, one of the foremost authors of all times has been through so much for so doing so little. Satanic Verses, perhaps a novel that was not even read by those who criticized it, was banned in India and created so much furor in the Islamic world that a fatwa was issued against the author following which attacks took place and demands of his death broke out with rewards for those who could kill him being announced publicly. All of whom call works of artists and authors seditious or profane are the ones who constitute the infamous group of pseudo-religious and pseudo-seculars. It is a shame that people who gift mankind awe-inspiring books and paintings thus bestowing on us wonderful creations of art are to live lives of eviction and trauma searching for hideouts like nomads. It was fanaticism at its peak when Chandramohan, just a student of visual art in an university was subject to violence when he allegedly sketched pictures of Hindu and Christian deities in an objectionable manner… What is perhaps the only thing objectionable in the world of art is objection from people who belittle art by attacking it which itself is a result of extreme ignorance.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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