English playwright George Bernard Shaw was spot on when he said, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”.
And this was on display in Jaipur on Thursday when members of two local outfits vandalised an art show and allegedly misbehaved with the artist. The groups were “protesting” against the depiction of semi-nude paintings at the summit.
Members of a women’s organisation Lal Sena and Rashtriya Hindu Ekta Manch, led by Hemlata Sharma and Vijay Shankar Pandey respectively, vandalised paintings at the Jaipur Art Summit because they found them to be “obscene”. They also had an altercation with the artist, Radha Binod Sharma.
According to a national daily, Sharma, who led the vandalism party, was quoted as saying that she was exercising her “freedom of expression” by taking down a painting she deemed “offensive”.
The hypersensitivity of people like Pandey and Sharma, which is the result of a blinkered and distorted view of “culture”, does not give them the right to attack another’s property or person. Unfortunately for them, that is the law of the land.
Our democracy provides ample space for dissent, but within the confines of the law — the protesting party could have filed a petition with the police. But then how would they get their 15 minutes of fame!
Thankfully the likes of Pandey and Sharma are still a rarity in society — but as the proverb goes: A rotten apple can spoil the barrel. And it is precisely to avert such a danger that the law and order machinery should get cracking, and cracking hard. Some media reports said that the police have arrested Pandey, but Sharma was absconding.
Sadly, this is not the first time miscreants have disrupted art shows in the name of morality. Art shows displaying works of the late MF Husain were a constant target of the fringe and rabid Right-wing groups. Pakistani artists have been also been at the receiving end.
One of the main reasons why such groups, which see such high-handedness as the easiest way to gain fame, feel encouraged is because of police inaction or the lack of a strong message from the government’s side. Quick and stern action should be taken against these self-styled culture guardians.
Such miscreants have no place in a society which, despite its several fault-lines and constraints, is inclusive.
Last checked, Sharma and Pandey were not appointed the custodians of morality — that position is left to citizens who believe in the rule of law and have a more accommodating view of life.