Gujarat model? Saffron sainiks ransack Gufa

Saffron sainiks ransack GufaArtwork by 11 Pak artists and 5 Indians were on display at art gallery above Amdavad ni Gufa.

Amdavad Ni Gufa attracts controversy and yet another chapter was added to the riled story on Friday. The premier art gallery was vandalised by alleged Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists for it was featuring artwork by Pakistani artists. They tore the paintings and ransacked furniture.

About 20 people wearing red tilak were involved, who went on with their act shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram!’, said eye-witnesses. They had even brought along cameras to record their handiwork.

“How are paintings of Pakistani artists allowed to be on display here when that country is beheading and killing our soldiers, waging a proxy war,” said Ranchhod Bharvad, general secretary of VHP Gujarat unit. Evading a question on whether VHP activists had ransacked the gallery and torn paintings, he said: “Our workers went there and registered a strong protest.”

A group exhibition, ‘An Art Affair’ was put up at the Gufa on August 13, featuring 40 paintings by five artists from India and 11 from Pakistan. It was organised by International Creative Arts Centre (ICAC). “I received a call at about 4.45pm on Friday. I was on my way back from Vadodara. I don’t know if they were from VHP or Bajrang Dal, but I’m sure that they were anti-social elements,” said Ravindra Mardia, founder of ICAC.

“As a curator, I’ve always thought and said that art has no boundaries and through this show, I wanted to propagate this belief,” Mardia further said. “I also wanted to show how both countries have developed in art over the last 60 years. In fact, 90% of the paintings on display, created by Pakistani artists, depict fear, hopelessness and grudges they have.”

Artist and in-charge of the Gufa, Vipul Prajapati, was present at the time of the attack.
“They came all-of-a-sudden, about 15-20 of them, and started breaking the frames and tearing canvases. They also damaged furniture and lights, the glass entrance door and a display wall,” said Prajapati. “Only two of us were here (when they attacked).”

Another artist, Rakesh Patel, said the hooligans were wearing red tilak and shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram!’ as they went on with the vandalising. “It all seemed planned as they had brought along camerapersons to record the act. They were probably from VHP. Mardia did arrange police security when the exhibition was inaugurated but owing to Independence Day, they weren’t here yesterday (Thursday) and today (Friday),” said Patel.

BV Doshi, who had conceptualised the Gufa with late MF Hussain, reacted by saying he was unaware of the incident but promised to find out more from Anil Relia, trustee of Amdavad ni Gufa trust, about the matter.

Mardia, meanwhile, pegs the losses at Rs50,000 for the gallery but the valuation of the paintings would easily surmount Rs50 lakh. “They were paintings, one-off works by artists. I have communicated about today’s incident to a few Pakistani artists,” said Mardia.

A police complaint regarding the incident has been registered with Gujarat University police station. “We have registered Mardia’s complaint against 15 unidentified men who stormed into the gallery and ransacked furniture. He has not named any organisation responsible for the attack,” said PSI JR Bhachkan.


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