Portions of a political installation of the Dutch artist Jonas Staal at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale were removed on Sunday following objections from the police. The installation comprised billboards carrying flags of 45 organisations banned in different countries, including outfits such as ULFA and Indian Mujahideen designated as terrorist organisations by the Indian government. Biennale officials said some of the flags were removed on instructions from the police.
Staal said in a statement that the installation was within the boundaries of Indian law. The intention behind the work was to show the whole of political activity banned by the Indian state. “These are not representations of these organisations; we are not in defence of their cause, we are not showing individual flags but one abstract image consisting of a collage of flags,” he said.
The 31-year-old artist-activist is the founder of the New World Summit initiative. Representatives of banned outfits were invited to two of these summits held earlier in the year to facilitate a critical dialogue with them. The third summit has been scheduled for March at the Biennale.
City Police Commissioner M.R. Ajith Kumar said the police were looking into the issue. “We will examine the legal aspects of the matter and take action accordingly,” he said.