Homophobic attack in New Delhi gallery
Assault on gay artist sparks fears of a new fundamentalist campaign
By Gareth Harris and Anubhav Nath. Web only
Published online: 26 January 2012
A homophobic attack on a gay artist earlier this month at a gallery in New Delhi has prompted fears that extremist Hindu groups are waging a new campaign against radical art and artists in India. The assault took place during an exhibition of paintings depicting homoerotic scenes by the artist Balbir Krishan at the state-run gallery Lalit Kala Akademi. An unidentified masked individual entered the gallery, tore one of Krishan’s paintings and struck the artist on the head with a blunt object. The attacker subsequently fled and has not been arrested, but a report has been lodged. No Hindu group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Krishan, who lost both his legs in a train accident 15 years ago, said that the attacker also shouted: “We taught a good lesson to [artist] M.F. Husain too. If you don’t stop, you’ll get the same dose." Husain was a key proponent of the Progressive Artists' group in the 1940s, attaining superstar status in the sub-continent. The artist, who died in London last year, left India in 2006 following a campaign begun in the mid-1990s by Hindu fundamentalists—at home and abroad—against his depictions of nude Hindu goddesses. Krishan said that he had also received several anonymous phone calls, with one caller stating: “You are determined to ruin Hinduism.”
Krishan dedicated the show to Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003), India’s best known gay artist, who explored the subject of homosexuality in his works with references to Hindu scriptures. The exhibition later transferred to Triveni Kala Sangam, a private gallery, where the show ended without disruption.
Ashok Vajpeyi, the former chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi, condemned the attack, telling the Dehli-based English-language newspaper The Sunday Guardian: “This is a violation of an artist’s freedom of expression. Every person, including the attacker, is entitled to their own opinion. But to physically harm [someone] to [get them to] accept your point of view is downright wrong.”
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