An angry mob attacked the venue of the ongoing Jaipur Art Summit 2016 on Thursday in protest against an “obscene” painting showcased at the gallery. The vandals also misbehaved with and injured London-based artist Radha Binod Sharma (pictured above) and took away the painting, but it was returned to the organisers later.
Shailendra Bhatt, founder director of the Jaipur Art Summit, told Scroll he could not confirm who the attackers were. “We do not know who those people were. The only thing we know is that their intentions were not good,” he said. However, an The Indian Express report said members of women’s organisation Lal Shakti and right-wing outfit Rashtriya Hindu Ekta Manch were responsible for the vandalism.
“There was one lady who came and vandalised the gallery. A red car with ‘PRESS’ written on it also arrived at the venue. Some men with cameras rushed into the gallery. Clearly, it was all pre-planned...Those who came had no idea what art is. They acted like terrorists,” Bhatt told Scroll .
On the basis of video footage of the vandalism, police have arrested Pandit Vijay Shankar Pandey, the state general secretary of the Rashtriya Hindu Ekta Manch. Lal Shakti leader Hemlata Sharma is absconding.
“We wanted artists to remove the controversial painting from there [the gallery], but they refused to do so...We had a heated argument with the artists present there for depicting women in an indecent way, and finally, we deposited the painting at the nearby Lal Kothi police station,” Sharma had told IANS.
Bhatt told Scroll that they had no idea where the painting was until they got a call from the police station. “We went to the police station and presented our side of the story. They assured us of security and returned the painting to us,” he said, adding that it was back on display Thursday evening. “The police has been extremely supportive throughout.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police of Jaipur East Kunwar Rashtradeep said, “What was done was illegal and unacceptable. We have assured security to the organisers.”
The Jaipur Art Summit began on December 7 and will be held till December 11. Around 500 artists from 25 countries are participating in it.