Amol Palekar

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - METRO - (With PTI in­puts)

“I feel rest­less that no one in the au­di­ence said ‘let Palekar speak his mind’,” said the 74-year-old. He was in­vited by NGMA for the open­ing of an ex­hi­bi­tion, In­side The Empty Box, held in mem­ory of artist Prab­hakar Barwe on Fri­day evening.

“I was sad that it took the or­gan­is­ers 24 years to re­mem­ber an artist such as Prab­hakar Barwe and hold his ret­ro­spec­tive. I was not al­lowed to speak against this in­jus­tice and was also not al­lowed to crit­i­cise the min­istry of cul­ture for scrap­ping the NGMA ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee. I was in­ter­rupted and told to re­strict my speech to the artist,” he added.

Palekar said he was told that as per the new di­rec­tor, four floors of NGMA would be used for dis­play­ing the works and the dome (fifth floor) will show­case only fresh ex­hi­bi­tions.

He said the artists’ ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee at NGMA had ap­proved hold­ing of ret­ro­spec­tives of three artists, of whom Barwe’s work was in­au­gu­rated. “But I came to know that with­out any com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the com­mit­tee, the next two ret­ro­spec­tives have been can­celled by Mum­bai NGMA’S new di­rec­tor Anita Ru­pa­vataram. I wanted to raise these is­sues. How and when these de­ci­sions were taken, we wanted to know,” he said.

Ru­pa­vataram did not re­spond to re­peated phone calls for a com­ment on the is­sue.

Gadanayak, how­ever, said: “Some artists have ex­pressed their ap­pre­hen­sions about avail­abil­ity of less space for tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions and ret­ro­spec­tives. The NGMA is de­lib­er­at­ing on sug­ges­tions re­ceived from artists and a fi­nal de­ci­sion will be taken shortly in con­sul­ta­tion with all the stake­hold­ers.”

On Fri­day, af­ter Palekar was told to “stick to” the theme of the event, he con­tin­ued with his speech and men­tioned writer Nayan­tara Sah­gal, who was in­vited to speak at a lit­er­ary con­ven­tion re­cently but the in­vi­ta­tion was with­drawn be­cause what she was go­ing to say “was slightly crit­i­cal of the sit­u­a­tion around us.”

“Are we cre­at­ing the same sit­u­a­tion here?” he asked the or­gan­is­ers of the event af­ter be­ing in­ter­rupted.

The cu­ra­tor of the gallery, Je­sal Thacker, in­ter­rupted Palekar dur­ing his speech, ask­ing him to stick to talk­ing about the event – Barwe’s ret­ro­spec­tive. Palekar said he was “rest­less­ness” and “hurt” over the man­ner in which he was fre­quently in­ter­rupted dur­ing the speech.

When Thacker asked Palekar to speak about the event, he could be heard say­ing the video: “I am go­ing to talk about the same. Are you ap­ply­ing cen­sor­ship to that?”

He was, how­ever, in­ter­rupted again by another per­son, who was heard say­ing: “This is not needed at the mo­ment, sorry... The func­tion is about Prab­hakar Barwe, please stick to that.”

The film­maker, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Sand­hya Gokhale, said on Satur­day that he was not pro­vided any brief by the gallery on what he should speak about, and the question of “pro­pri­ety”, as citied by or­gan­is­ers, did not arise. “If I had been in­formed ear­lier about what I was sup­posed to speak on, I would then have had the op­tion of not ac­cept­ing the in­vi­ta­tion,” he added.

“It is shock­ing. Pro­pri­ety of my com­ments is be­ing ob­jected to by NGMA. As I was talk­ing about NGMA at their own venue and in­vited by the gallery it­self, how can it be im­proper?” he said.

Palekar’s wife said no one came for­ward to speak in favour of Palekar af­ter the in­ci­dent. “In the past 24 hours, no one has come for­ward and spo­ken about this in­ci­dent. We are get­ting per­sonal mes­sages from var­i­ous people point­ing out the stand we took, but no one has come out in pub­lic,” she said at Satur­day’s news brief­ing.

Palekar sought to draw a par­al­lel be­tween the i nci­dent in­volv­ing him and sev­eral ear­lier al­leged at­tacks by right-wing or­gan­i­sa­tions on artists, so­cial thinkers and pub­lic per­son­al­i­ties who crit­i­cised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led govern­ment.

The Con­gress said the in­ci­dent showed the cen­tral govern­ment was in­ter­fer­ing in the field of arts. “Some­body is slammed with sedi­tion; some­body is not let to speak. This is the ‘new In­dia’. Naren­dra Modi talked of these ‘ Ac­che Din’ i n his speeches,” Con­gress leader Kapil Sibal told ANI.

Na­tion­al­ist Con­gress Party leader Supriya Sule said: “This is a sign of an un­de­clared emer­gency in the coun­try. Our democ­racy holds free­dom of speech as a fun­da­men­tal right of the cit­i­zens. Who is shoot­ing guns from the shoul­der of the min­istry of cul­ture?”

The Shiv Sena, the BJP’S ally in the Ma­ha­rash­tra govern­ment, too crit­i­cised the Cen­tre. “It was cruel to in­ter­rupt him [Palekar]. The or­gan­is­ers had the lib­erty to put a dis­claimer of dis­agree­ment af­ter his speech,” said Nee­lam Gorhe, Shiv Sena spokesper­son.

With in­puts from agen­cies loons [they car­ried on Sun­day],” he said.

Naidu hit back at Modi and said he will re­turn to Gu­jarat and would “cer­tainly not” re­tain his prime min­is­te­rial post. “I have taken up the cud­gels for unit­ing the Op­po­si­tion for the noble cause of send­ing Modi home but not for his bash­ing alone,” Naidu told re­porters. “I will not keep quiet un­til my state gets its due.”

In­vok­ing the legacy of NTR, Modi al­leged the Andhra CM was in­sult­ing the TDP founder, to which Naidu re­sponded by say­ing, “per­sonal at­tacks would beget per­sonal at­tacks”.

In Kar­nataka’s Hub­balli, Modi mocked the state’s Janata Dal (Sec­u­lar)-con­gress coali­tion govern­ment as “help­less”. He said Kar­nataka chief min­is­ter H D Ku­maraswamy had be­come a “punch­ing bag”. Modi added that the Op­po­si­tion wants to im­pose the same model on the rest of the coun­try.

Modi said there was not even a sin­gle day “when the coun­try does not see the natak (drama) of the Kar­nataka govern­ment”, as he launched BJP’S cam­paign for Lok Sabha polls in the state.

“The chief min­is­ter here is ev­ery­one’s punch­ing bag. Ev­ery day he is get­ting threat­ened. The chief min­is­ter’s whole en­ergy is spent on sav­ing his seat from big Con­gress lead­ers,” Modi said, re­fer­ring to Ku­maraswamy, who has of­ten ex­pressed his help­less­ness in the face of coali­tion pres­sures.

“Pub­licly, he weeps about his help­less­ness. Such a help­less govern­ment, such a help­less chief min­is­ter who is be­ing chal­lenged by any­one and ev­ery­one. Who is the in charge of the govern­ment? There is con­fu­sion about it,” Modi said.

in Tamil Nadu’s Tirup­pur, Modi ac­cused the Con­gress of ne­glect­ing the de­fence sec­tor and claimed that for the Op­po­si­tion party it was only about bro­ker­ing deals. “From the seas to the skies, the Con­gress has sev­eral scams as­so­ci­ated with de­fence and, in the process, the party did not al­low the moderni­sa­tion of de­fence forces for long years that they were in power,” Modi said.

In Tamil Nadu, M K Stalin’s Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam, which has backed Con­gress Pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi for the prime min­is­te­rial post, led the protests against Modi. In Kar­nataka and Andhra, chief min­is­ters Ku­maraswamy and Naidu skipped the cour­tesy of re­ceiv­ing Modi at the air­port.

Naidu and his cabi­net mem­bers also stayed away from Modi’s pro­grammes while Andhra Pradesh and Te­lan­gana gover­nor E S L Narasimhan re­ceived the Prime Min­is­ter at Gan­navaram air­port.

Modi laid the foun­da­tion for sev­eral projects in the three states.

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