Veteran actor-director Amol Palekar was repeatedly interrupted and asked to stop his speech by members of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) when he was addressing the audience at an exhibition in Mumbai on Friday, 8 February.
"This is not needed at this moment. The function is about Prabhakar Barwe. You just stick to that." - Member, NGMA
A video shared on Twitter shows Palekar speaking at the opening of an exhibition "Inside The Empty Box" in the memory of artist Prabhakar Barwe.
A video available on social media showed Palekar criticising the Ministry of Culture for reportedly scrapping the advisory committees at the gallery's Mumbai and Bengaluru centres.
Just got this video of one of my favourite actors, Amol Palekar, being cut off while ruing the loss of independence in art at @mumbai_ngma simply because he seemed critical of a Ministry of Culture/NGMA decision.— Annu Tandon (@AnnuTandonUnnao) February 9, 2019
This is what #intolerance in the present times is all about. Sad! pic.twitter.com/u8L30qeiz7
What Happened During Palekar’s Speech?
Referring to this development, Palekar said, “Many of you may not know that this retrospective will be the last show decided by the advisory committee of local artists and not by some bureaucrat or an agent of the government with an agenda of either moral policing or proliferation of certain art commensurate with an ideological incline.” he said,
"As of 13 November 2018, the artistes' advisory committees at both regional centres Mumbai and Bangalore – have been abolished, is what I have learnt.” He added that he was "in the process of verifying the hearsay".
At this point, an NGMA member on the stage interrupted, saying that Palekar should talk about the event.
To which, Palekar responded, “I am going to talk about the same. Are you you applying censorship to that?”
When Palekar Refused to Stop
He then said that as per his information, after the abolition of local artists' committee, decisions as to whose work should be exhibited would be taken from Delhi by the Ministry of Culture.
He was again interrupted by a woman, who said, “This is not needed at the moment, sorry....The function is about Prabhakar Barwe, please stick to that.”
However, Palekar refused to stop, and went on to mention that writer Nayantara Sahgal was invited to speak at the Marathi literary convention recently but at the last minute the invitation was withdrawn because what she was going to say "was slightly critical of the situation around us."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.
Opposition Hits Out at Palekar
Hitting out at the NDA dispensation over the issue, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said this was the “acchhe din” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised and alleged that the government had “taken away the right of the common man to speak”.
His party colleague Abhishek Manu Singhvi, in a tweet, termed it an effort to silence dissent.
“Is India being redefined? Are institutional pillars of democracy trying to silent the dissent of people (sic)?” he wrote on the mircoblogging site.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav accused the government of trying to control thoughts and alleged that this was a sign of a nervous government.
“Why does the BJP want to police people’s thoughts and opinions and control what they eat, wear, say and do? They want to make India monochrome and colourless. Telling Mr Palekar to stop speaking shows the nervousness of the government,” he tweeted.
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, wrote on Twitter, that the essence of democracy was criticism.
The whole essence of our democracy, our constitutional rights, is the freedom to criticise the government and its leaders. No one is above criticism. This behaviour with Amol Palekar is undemocratic and highly condemnable. https://t.co/ls8EDllrza— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) February 10, 2019
Industrialist Anand Mahindra tweeted, that the Ministry of Culture must clarify that it welcomes constructive criticism.
However inappropriate Palekar’s comments were for the occasion, he wasn’t a heckler, he was an invited speaker. The best way to prevent a controversy is for the Ministry of Culture to clarify that it welcomes constructive criticism and that Indian Culture celebrates free speech.. https://t.co/pmPf6GBqjM— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) February 10, 2019
(With PTI inputs.)
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