A painting of goddess Kali put on display at an exhibition in Jahangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, has exposed a Kolkata woman artist to death threats, allegedly from a Hindu right-wing organisation.
Eleena Banik organised the exhibition of her paintings between April 2 and 8. One of the two pictures which came under the scanner of the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) was of Kali, in which the artist had shown the goddess without the usual garland of human skulls which cover her breasts.
The second picture, a nude one, depicted the December 2012 Delhi gang rape incident.
“I was approached by one man on Saturday (April 6) in the art gallery and he accused me of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus through the painting of Kali. I tried to explain to him that even in Hindu mythology there are such pictures of goddess and it has not been painted deliberately,” Ms. Banik told The Hindu over telephone from a location she did not want to reveal.
The artist was later allegedly told by the art gallery management to remove the two paintings, fearing attacks. The exhibition concluded on Monday and both paintings had been removed on Sunday afternoon.
Ms. Banik said she was receiving death threats from unknown people, after the persons who had approached her put her contact details on their website. “How can they publish my contact details without taking my permission?” she asked.
However, Shivaji Vatkar, coordinator, HJS-Mumbai region, said the artist herself asked for trouble. “There is nothing wrong in what we did. Paintings like these cannot be seen with family. How can a man who sees such nude paintings will worship the goddess? His mind will be full of nudity and anti-social thoughts.” Mr. Vatkar said such paintings would only lead to an increase in sexual crimes against women.
The HJS has warned Ms. Banik to remove the “objectionable” paintings from her website on pain of serious consequences.
Additional Commissioner (South) Krishna Prakash told The Hindu that the police had not received any complaint. “Police will always do everything possible to uphold the freedom of expression of an artist.”