Differences arose between Lalit Kala Akademi officials over exhibition

The Union Culture Ministry has terminated the contracts of several senior officials over the matter

March 28, 2024 10:00 pm | Updated March 29, 2024 12:27 pm IST - New Delhi

The Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi

The Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

An internecine war brewing in the Lalit Kala Akademi came to a boil over the organisation of an exhibition and on-the-spot painting competition in Ayodhya in the run-up to the inauguration of the Ram Temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22. The fallout was the termination of many senior officials perceived to be close to V. Nagdas, chairman of the autonomous body that works under the aegis of the Union Culture Ministry.

The idea of the on-the-spot painting cum exhibition was the brainchild of Professor Nagdas, who was divested of his administrative powers on January 8. Subsequently, on February 12, the services of a total of 24 officials of the Akademi who were on contract was terminated.

Those on the list included Johny M.L., assistant editor (Contemporary), P. Jayaprakash, consultant (Admn)/ personal secretary to the chairman, and Suman Kumar Singh, assistant editor (Hindi) — all perceived to be working closely with Mr. Nagdas in Delhi. While the contracts of 10 employees were terminated in Delhi, those of 14 have been terminated in regional centres.

Mr. Nagdas was appointed the chairperson in March last year for a three-year term. A former faculty of Chhattisgarh’s Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidlaya, he was a celebrated artist who had received numerous awards, including the National Academy Award by Central Lalit Kala Akademi in 2000.

Sources said a turf war had been brewing in the institution since Rajiv Kumar took charge as the secretary in-charge in August. Documents accessed by The Hindu showed that complaints had been made to the Culture Ministry on the chairman’s style of functioning, including not organising meetings of the Executive Board and the General Council of the Akademi.

Mr. Nagdas was not available for comment.

The sources said that the Akademi had planned a special painting/exhibition of Lord Ram’s “human face”. The theme of the exhibition, which would have involved 108 artists from across the country, had been conceptualised by noted actor and screenwriter Chandraprakash Dwivedi and would have been based on Lord Ram’s character as exemplified by the “Valmiki Ramayan”.

Mr. Dwivedi had in October last year held a meeting with the chairperson and other senior members of the Akademi. However, the programme was never finalised.

Documents accessed by The Hindu showed that on December 22, Mr. Nagdas issued a memo to Mr. Kumar which said: “…one of the most important activities that have to be undertaken in the near future by the Akademi is the on the spot painting/exhibition of artists from all over the country at Ayodhya”.

“This painting exhibition is an important precursor before the Ram Temple at Ayodhya is inaugurated by the Prime Minister. In spite of such an important activity to be undertaken, you have been found to be lacking/shown no interest or putting your unstinted efforts for the successful completion of the said activity”.

However, there was no go-ahead and the exhibition was not held. Instead, an order was issued on January 8 barring the chairman from taking any “administrative actions”, including on matters related to “appointment, recruitment, transfer, disciplinary action and financial decisions”, without consulting the Ministry.

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