Student gets bail as artists protest over ‘moral police’

Ahmedabad, India - An arts student jailed on charges that his paintings hurt Hindu and Christian sentiments was granted bail yesterday, while artists protested against hardline Hindu groups they labelled “moral police”.

In early May, members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing Hindu group, stormed one of Gujarat state’s main universities to destroy paintings made by the student, Chandramohan, that were hanging in a gallery.

Chandramohan had used the symbolism of the cross in sexually explicit images of Hindu gods and goddesses in his paintings.

The activists pulled down the paintings, heckled Chandramohan, and had him arrested on charges of offending religious sentiments.

Several hundred painters, students and members of the artistic community gathered in Mumbai as well as Vadodara, where the Maharaja Sayajirao University is located, to protest.

Chandramohan was arrested four days ago and released on bail yesterday, court officials said.

“Where is freedom of expression? Leave art alone for arts sake,” students shouted outside the university in Vadodara, south of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s main city.

In Mumbai, some 100 protesters, some with banners saying “Down With Moral Policing”, demonstrated by an art gallery.

“Religion is no joke. The paintings were offending the Hindus and Christians,” said VHP activist Neeraj Jain.

But students and faculty members demanded an apology from the police and hardline Hindu groups.

“We will keep drawing and expressing,” said 27-year-old Suparna Mittal, a student. “They cannot stop our mind and cut our hands,” she said.

“I don’t think us artists are going to stand by and let this moral police take over, we don’t want our country to become Talibanised,” Anjolie Ela Menon, a well-known painter, said.-