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Behind protest at art institute, a BJP vs BJP tussle for Vadodara university’s control

Exactly 15 years after one among its college students was arrested for allegedly “hurting religious sentiments” by way of two of his work, a mob gathered outdoors the Faculty of Fine Arts of MS University (MSU) in Vadodara on May 5 to disrupt jury analysis of final-year college students’ artworks. BJP chief Hasmukh Vaghela who’s a member of the MSU Syndicate, the college’s highest physique, led the protest. This demonstration, celebration insiders mentioned, was the results of a factional feud within the BJP for the management of the Syndicate.

Vaghela was elected to the Syndicate for the primary time in February 2021 from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed group Sankalan Samiti. The 38-year-old can be part of the BJP metropolis unit, a two-time member of the establishment’s Senate, and an alumnus of the college’s pharmacy division. On Thursday, he tried to barge into the analysis corridor to “scrutinise objectionable artworks” that “disrespect gods and goddesses”. The protest was triggered after photographs of the allegedly objectionable artworks went viral on social media.

During the demonstration, the BJP chief was accompanied by advocate Niraj Jain of the Hindu Jagran Manch. Jain, a former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief, was the complainant within the 2007 case during which Fine Arts scholar Chandramohan was arrested. As the right-wing protesters raised slogans and warned college students of the “consequences of disrespecting religious sentiments”, a bunch of scholars stood between them and the jury corridor. Jain and Vaghela received right into a verbal spat with the division’s lecturers and demanded that they be allowed to enter the corridor to “check the obscene artworks”.

But the Faculty of Fine Arts’ lecturers didn’t relent and advised the 2 that the artworks within the social media photographs weren’t a part of the analysis. Threatening the school members, Vaghela mentioned, “This faculty has a record of indulging in such blasphemous activities related to religion. History is testimony to their anti-Hindu mindset that reflects in their annual exhibitions and actions time and again. We will not tolerate this. We will complain to the Education Minister to initiate strict action.”

Jain contended that the division violated a decision adopted after the Chandramohan incident. According to the lawyer, the decision acknowledged {that a} committee of specialists would scrutinise artworks being thought-about for exhibition to take away people who “cause provocation or hurt sentiments”.

Fact-finding committee

As a results of the fracas, the college arrange a nine-member fact-finding committee to probe the incident and suspended the annual exhibition — it could have been the primary because the Covid-19 pandemic started. “These artworks were not part of our evaluations and so obviously they were not for public display,” mentioned Dean Jayaram Poduval. “The frames of which pictures are circulating were planted as part of a conspiracy to taint the image of the faculty and disrupt the examination.”

A senior metropolis BJP chief mentioned the controversy was the results of an ongoing combat between Sankalan Samiti and Team MSU, which additionally consists of BJP leaders, for the management of the college’s highest physique. At current, 12 of the 15 elected members of the Syndicate are from Team MSU (9 of them received uncontested) whereas Sankalan Samiti has three members — Vaghela, who received uncontested, and two others elected from the lecturers’ class. The Faculty of Fine Arts’ present consultant within the Senate is Samiti member Bipin Patel. His spouse Ambika is a professor within the Faculty and a part of the fact-finding panel.

A senior BJP functionary who backs Team MSU mentioned, “It is a fact that on the MSU campus, Sankalan Samiti, comprising primary members of the BJP and backed by the RSS, is trying to gain more control over the seats. The current controversy at the Faculty of Fine Arts stands to benefit the Samiti since Dean Jayaram Poduval is from Team MSU. The Sankalan Samiti has been eyeing the post to prop up one of their top contenders for the position, which will automatically get them a seat in the Senate. By default, all deans of faculties are Senate members. So, if Poduval vacates his office, Team MSU will also lose one seat in the Senate. For the Syndicate elections, held every three years, only Senate members can vote. At the moment, Team MSU benefits in the Syndicate directly because of the majority it enjoys in the Senate.”

The BJP chief mentioned nobody helps “disrespect of religion” by way of artworks nevertheless it had but to be confirmed if the items of artwork that the mob was protesting in opposition to have been a part of the submissions. “No one will like it if art is used to hurt religious sentiments. Then, the exhibition had not opened and the allegations were made during a closed-door evaluation process … The fact-finding committee will submit its report but one cannot deny that this controversy could have been avoided by waiting for the public show to begin. In case of anything objectionable, one could have raised it through an appropriate complaint. At least, one can expect that much restraint from a Syndicate member.”

Vaghela is not any stranger to controversies. After being elected to the Syndicate, he made allegations of irregularities within the appointments of the college’s instructing and non-teaching workers and made representations to Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Education Minister Jitu Vaghani. In 2018, he stirred up an uproar on the Senate’s annual assembly by demanding the suspension of two college students from the Institute of Leadership and Governance for assembly former JNU scholar chief Kanhaiya Kumar. “MSU should not fall prey to Communist forces … such students should be suspended or they will break Gujarat into pieces,” he mentioned on the assembly.

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