Artists, it’s held, sense possibilities that mortals overlook. With seeking eyes and thoughtful sensibilities, artists capture details that transform the mundane of our daily lives. They don’t hesitate to make bold interpretations of what they see. Often, their inferences are considered objectionable by purists. The greatest artists of our times – MF Husain instantly springs to mind – invited censure.
Many others like fine arts student Kundan Kumar Mahato have faced worse. Last year, Mahato was rusticated for making a montage of newspaper cuttings on rape and sexual misconduct against women in the shape of various Hindu goddesses.
The Gujarat High Court has, however, quashed the university order to debar Mahato, who is a student of the Masters of Visual Arts of the Faculty of Fine Arts. The court chided MSU for conducting a “hasty and slipshod inquiry”.
Justice Bhargav Karia held that MSU had “singled out” the student without conducting a fair and thorough inquiry when some unknown people made pictures of the supposedly objectionable work viral, which created an uproar on the campus.
The court said, “What was the haste in debarring him? How can you debar him when the faculty members have not been suspended? The fact-finding committee report of MSU is very clear that the student has not taken the photos that went viral. So, who took those pictures?”
The court further held, “A very rapid and slipshod inquiry is conducted…action can be taken only after all inquiries are conducted simultaneously, including that against the faculty. How can you single out the student? The artwork is a personal perception — it was not a public display. You (MSU) could have failed him in the internal exam stating that this is derogatory. It is not a major offence. You have to justify your action.”
It added, “He (Mahato) can appear for his classes. Ultimately, they (the faculty) are more responsible. What is the role of a guru? In a school, if some student misbehaves, does the teacher shut her eyes? Your faculty members should be more open-minded…In Fine Arts, such things (artworks) are so common. You (MSU) would know this better as your university is well known since MF Husain’s time. To my knowledge, this was the best Fine Arts University with an open mind. If such an incident occurs, the university should take an onus for it. The petition is allowed.”
Meanwhile, Kundan, a gold medallist for his academic performance at BHU’s Bachelor’s course in Visual Arts from 2017-2021, was quoted as saying, “I am elated and looking forward to continuing my studies. It was never my intention to hurt anyone’s sentiments and I am glad that the court has given me justice.”