British sculptor Anish Kapoor held nothing back in a column he wrote for the Guardian on November 12, 2015, timed to coincide with the UK visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kapoor who was born in Mumbai but has lived and worked in Britain for the last three decades, compared the central government run by the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party, of which Modi is a member, with the Hindu Taliban, sparking outrage in India.
On Thursday, PTI reported that Kapoor, along with 11 others, has been removed from a Rajasthan government cultural panel. It isn't entirely clear if Kapoor's scathing criticism of the Indian PM is what led to his removal.
Interestingly, it was Vasundhara Raje's BJP government that nominated him as the member of the Governing Board of Jaipur's Jawahar Kala Kendra on November 16.
"Nomination of all the 12 members has been canceled last night. I had no idea of the nomination earlier," Rajasthan Tourism minister Krishnendra Kaur told PTI. Kaur said she was unaware of the nominations and the Principal Secretary of the department had issued the order without consultation.
PTI said reporters had pointed out Kapoor's nomination to Kaur yesterday. Pooja Sood, the Director General of JKK, said that the list, that carried the names of educationists Homi K Bhabha, novelist Jeet Thayil, among others, was issued by the government on November 16.
In his column, Kapoor, who was knighted in 2013, wrote: "He (Modi) won’t be seriously called to account for human rights abuses or systematic thuggery. If there is one thing that has marked the man’s first year and a half in power it is this: he is not a man who takes kindly to scrutiny or criticism. In fact, he has used the very economic agenda that causes Britain to turn a blind eye to his regime’s human rights abuses to muzzle dissent within India."
Kapoor was referring to a series of protests by citizen groups against instances of intolerance in India, some over the ban on beef, that led to violence. A Muslim blacksmith was bludgeoned to death in Uttar Pradesh and truckers in Jammu and Kashmir attacked. A headmaster of a government primary madrassa was lynched in Manipur over allegations that he stole a calf, reported Times of India.
The issue that divided Indian politcs, was made worse by a series of incendiary comments from politicians, some of them members of the ruling party. On social media, the issue of intolerance was bitterly debated with both camps accusing the other of curbing each other's right to protest.
Hindustan Times reported yesterday that the names in the list had been cleared by the chief minister’s office.
"A Hindu version of the Taliban is asserting itself, in which Indians are being told: “It’s either this view – or else”', wrote Kapoor. He argued that the current government's "militant Hinduism" is risking the marginalisation of minorities and harming the country's pluralistic nature. "We have a long tradition of tolerance and, despite differences, have managed to pull our huge country together," he said.
Critics hit back at Kapoor saying that the Indian electorate had voted for BJP and it was wrong to question its choice.
Harini Kalamur wrote in the DNA: "The Indian electorate makes informed and wise decisions - it may not be as literate or as sophisticated as its western counterpart; it may neither be as wealthy, nor as involved – but, the Indian voters have tended to surprise Indian politicians, political parties, and the world at large with their choices. We vote for a direction. We vote to teach rulers a lesson. We participate in the electoral process with joy and involvement. And, we vote because it is our right to do so. There are those who many not like the outcome, but that does not mean that the voters are wrong or have voted ‘fascists’ or ‘communists’ or whatever."
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