NEW DELHI: Academics, artists and writers on Friday condemned the attack on suspended dean in-charge of the Faculty of Fine Arts of Maharaja Sayajirao University (Baroda) Shivaji Panikkar in Ahmedabad earlier in the day. Professor Panikkar was assaulted when he was on his way to preside over a film festival.
In a statement, SAHMAT pointed out that Professor Panikkar, who was suspended in May after a jury review of an exhibition on the campus was disrupted by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Niraj Jain, “was threatened with ‘dire consequences’ by Mr. Jain for protecting the rights of his students and the integrity of the academic proceedings of his department.”
According to SAHMAT, the Friday attack was “obviously orchestrated by the sangh parivar and seeks to continue their attempt to impose their politically motivated cultural agenda by fear and terror.”
While urging the authorities to immediately proceed against the attackers, it also sought the intervention of Gujarat Governor – the Visitor of M.S. University – in restoring normality to the “world-famous department.”
In a statement, a number of activists, artistes and writers criticised the Friday attack. “It is a sad reflection of our communalised polity in India, particularly in Gujarat, those such blatant assaults on freedom of expression and thought are being repeatedly witnessed.”
Planning a protest meeting outside Gujarat Bhavan here on Saturday, they expressed concern that the Gujarat Governor had not taken any action to safeguard the rights of the students and teachers. “It is because of this callousness on behalf of the authorities that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad goons feel embolden to attack Professor Panikkar in broad daylight,” they said.
The signatories to the statement included Namvar Singh, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Gauhar Raza, Ghulam Mohammad Shaikh, Nilima Sheikh, Shabnam Hashmi, Vivan Sundaram and Yashpal.