Dear Friends,
Today’s Lecture by Kumkum Sangari is postponed because she is not feeling well.
We will inform you as soon as the new date will be finalized.

We regret.

SAHMAT statement condemning the arrests of activists, 29-08-2018

Condemning Arrests of Activists

We the undersigned are utterly shocked and appalled by the simultaneous arrests of several prominent civil rights activists in different parts of the country, and the raids on their houses and those of many others. The exact nature of the alleged unlawful activities of those arrested has not been made clear though they are booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act; in many instances, even the families are unaware of the charges on which they have been arrested; where some charges have been reported, they appear utterly weird and outlandish; and the documents occasionally mentioned as evidence against them are of highly questionable authenticity. Besides, all those arrested can by no stretch of imagination be said to belong to any one particular group; in fact, the only thing that is common to them is that they have all been in the forefront of the struggle to defend the democratic rights of various oppressed and marginalized sections of society.

The conclusion is inescapable that what is being conducted is a witch-hunt against those who dare to take up the cause of the downtrodden and who dare to criticize the government for trampling upon their rights. While the BJP government in power in the country had until now been implicitly supportive of lynch-mobs targeting minorities and dissident intellectuals, large-scale arrests of critics of the government had been avoided. Even that restraint, it seems, is now being abandoned. The threat that this poses to our democracy is palpable and serious. We condemn these arrests in the strongest and most unequivocal terms, and demand that the arrested civil rights activists be released forthwith. 

Irfan Habib
Amiya Kumar Bagchi
Prabhat Patnaik
Vivan Sundaram
M.K. Raina
Sohail Hashmi
Madangopal Singh
Ram Rahman  
Zoya Hasan
D. N. Jha
C.P. Bhambri
Jayati Ghosh
C.P. Chandrasekhar
Geeta Kapur
Saeed Mirza
Sashi Kumar
A. Amarender Reddy
A. Muthukrishnan
Aban Raza
Abhilasha Kumari
Aditya Mukherjee
Ahmar Raza
Alok Rai
Amar Farooqui
Amitesh Kumar
Anand K. Sahay
Anantjeet Kaur
Ananya Vajpeyi
Anil Bhatti
Anil Chandra
Anil Sadgopal
Anita Cherian
Anita Ghai
Antara Dev Sen
Anuradha Kapur
Archana Prasad       
Arjun Dev
Arpana Caur
Arunkumar H.G.
Asghar Wajahat
Asmita Aasaavari
Atlury Murali
Badri Raina
Barnita Bagchi
Brij Tankha
Chanchal Chauhan
Diamond Oberoi Vahali
Pieter Friedrich
Prabhakar Pachpute
Prasanna Ramaswamy
Praveen Jha
Pulin Nayak
Pushpamala N.
Qurban Ali
Radhika Menon
Rahul Roy
Rahul Verma  
Raj Chauhan
Rajeev Bhargava
Rajinder Arora
Rajiv Gupta 
Rajni Arora
Rakhi Sehgal
Ramakrishna Chatterjee   
Rana Behal
Rashmi Varma
Rekha Awasthi
Rekha Rodwittiya
Rimli Bhattacharya
Ritambhara Shastri
Roop Rekha Verma
Rukmini Sen
Saba Hasan
Sanjeev Kumar
Santosh Dash
Shabari Rao
Dinesh Abrol
Dinesh Mohan
Gauri Gill
Geetha Mehra
Gernot Wieland
Githa Hariharan
Hilal Ahmed
Indira Arjun Dev
Indira Chandrasekhar        
Iqtidar Alam Khan    
Ira Bhaskar
Jennifer Mirza
Josna T. Jacob
K. L. Tuteja
K. M. Shrimali    
Kamini Tankha
Keval Arora
Kirti Jain
Kumar Shahani
Lata Singh
Latika Gupta
Laxmi Murthy
Lokesh Khodke
M.M.P. Singh
Madhu Prasad
Mandira Mitra
Mangalesh Dabral
Manish Agarwal
Maseeh Rahman
Maya John
Maya Krishna Rao
Maya Sriram
Mithu Sen
Mohan Rao
Mridula Mukherjee
Mushirul Hasan
N.K. Sharma     
Nadeem Rezavi
Nalini Nayak 
Nandini Nayak
Neeladri Bhattacharya
Nilima Sheikh
Nina Rao 
O.P. Jaiswal
P.K. Shukla
Parthiv Shah    
Shakti Kak       
Shalin Jain       
Sherna Dastur
Shireen Gandhi  
Shireen Moosvi
Shubhra Chakrabarti
Sidheeq Kappan
Subir Sinha
Sudhanva Deshpande
Sudhir Chandra
Sukirat Anand
Sukumar Murlidharan
Sumangala Damodaran
Sumit Sarkar
Surendran Nair
Suvira Jaiswal  
Tani Bhargava
V. Ramakrishna
Valay Singhrai
Vasudha Dalmia
Vasundhara Chauhan
Veer Munshi
Vikas Rawal
Vishwamohan Jha     
Yashodhara Dalmia
Zasha Colah

SAHMAT Statement on Shahidul Alam, 8-8-2018


Over 250 photographers, Artists, Journalists and activists including 
Ram Rahman, Vivan Sundaram, Parthiv Shah, Pushpamala N., Raghu Rai, Devika Daulet-Singh, Pablo Bartholomew, Prashant Panjiar, Dinesh Khanna, Sunil Gupta, Jitish Kalat, Krishen Khanna, Ravi Aggarwal and Gauri Gill, have issued a statement demanding Bangladesh photographer Shahidul Alam’s immediate release. The statement with is as follows: 

In a shocking development, late night on 5 August 2018, Dr. Shahidul Alam, internationally renowned photographer, pedagogue, activist, and founder of Drik and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, was forcibly abducted from his house in Dhanmondi, Dhaka in Bangladesh. According to eyewitnesses, around 30 to 35 plainclothes men, claiming to be from the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, forcibly entered Dr. Alam’s home, pushed him into a waiting car and sped away. They taped up the CCTV camera and took away the camera footage. The security guards were manhandled and locked up.

Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Detective Branch), Abdul Baten, told UNB (United News of Bangladesh) that Dr. Shahidul Alam has been detained for interrogation over his Facebook posts on the ongoing student protests in Bangladesh. Later news reports confirm that Dr. Alam has been arrested under the draconian ICT Act (Information and Communication Technology Act), routinely used to suppress freedom of speech, and to harass writers, activists and journalists for their comments on social media. When Dr. Alam was produced before a Dhaka court on Monday, 6 August, he had to be supported as he could not walk on his own. He had been made to wash his own bloodied clothes to wear again. The Dhaka police were granted a 7-day remand after producing him before the court.

There have been further developments. On Tuesday, 7 August, the court ordered that Dr. Alam be taken to a government hospital for a medical check-up in response to a petition filed by his lawyers; however, the written orders were not produced in time and so he spent another night in police custody. He was finally taken to hospital at 9.30 am today, 8 August, but it appears that once the medical checkup takes place he will be back in police custody. The next hearing at the court is on Thursday, 9 August 2018, when the State lawyers will attempt to oppose the High Court order and argue against it.

The detention and murderous attack on Dr. Shahidul Alam is symptomatic. Writers, journalists and social media activists in Bangladesh have over the last several years suffered similar repression. Dr. Alam is determined to hold on to the ideal of social justice and to engage in cultural action that strengthens democratic and egalitarian values. He has disseminated these ideas through his critical writings, a sustained pedagogical programme around photography and numerous curatorial projects that engage the public.  He is admired and respected all across the world and especially in South Asia for his exemplary work as a photographer-activist and for his courageous stand on the fraught relationship between the State and the people.

Consider how Dr Alam’s position resonates with that in India; how it  adds to the urgencies needing to be addressed by the citizenry here.

We condemn, in the strongest possible way, the arrest, brutality and dishonour done to Dr. Shahidul Alam. The message is simple. Dr. Alam exercised his right as a citizen. No charges must be bought under section 57 of the draconian ICT Act. 

We demand his immediate and unconditional release.

Aban Raza
Abhay Sardesai
Abhijan Gupta
Abhishek Hazra
Adira Thekkuveetil
Aditi De
Aishwaryan K
Ajay Sinha
Akkitham Vasudevan
Alnoor Mitha
Aman Bahl
Amar Kanwar
Amita Desai
Amrita Jhaveri
Amshu Chukki
Anant Joshi
Ananya Vajpeyi
Anita Dube
Anita Khemka
Anju Dodiya
Anmol Vellani
Anoli Perera
Anshuman Dasgupta
Anup Mathew Thomas
Anuradha Kapur
Anusha Yadav
Aquin Mathews
Archana hande
Arpana Caur
Arshiya Lokhandwala
Arun Kumar HG
Arundhati Ghosh
Arvind Lodaya
Ashish Rajadhyaksha
Ashwathi Vijaykumar
Astad Deboo
Avinash Veeraraghavan
Ayesha Singh
Babitha Lingraj
Babu Eshwar Prasad
Bari Kumar
Belinder Dhanoa
Bharat Chowdhary
Bharat Sikka
Bharati Kapadia
Bhavna Kakar
C.F. John
Chandan Gomes
Chander Haat
Chimuk Kaur
Chinar Shah
Chittrovanu Mazumdar
Clay Kelton
Cop Shiva
Daljeet Wadhwa
Dayanita Singh
Deepa Bhasthi
Deepak Ananth
Deepanjana Pal
Desmond Lazaro
Devika Daulet Singh
Dhruv Malhotra
Dileep Prakash
Dimple B. Shah
Dinesh Khanna
Diva Gujral
Fawzan Husain
Franck Barthelemy
Gargi Raina
Gauri Gill
Gayatri Sinha
Geeta Kapur
Gigi Scaria
Gitanjali Dang
Gopika Chowfla
Gopika Nath
Gulammohammed Sheikh
Hans Kaushik
Harish Tyagi
Harsha Vardhana
Himangshu Dhanda
Himanshu Joshi
Imran B. Kokiloo
Indira Chandrasekhar
Indrapramit Roy
Ira Raja
Jagadeesh Reddy
Jahangir Asgar Jani
Jamshed Chinoy
Jasmeen Patheja
Jatin Das
Jeroo Mulla
Jitish Kalat
Jyotindra Jain
K. P. Reji
Kajri Jain
Kamini Sawhney
Kaushik Narayan Ramanathan
Kavita Singh
Ketaki Sheth
Kirtana Thangavelu
Krishen Khanna
Kristine Michael
Kurchi Dasgupta,
Lalitha Shankar
Leena Chethan
M. Madhava Prasad
M. S. Prakash Babu
M.K. Raina
Madan Gopal Singh
Madhuban Mitra
Madhusree Dutta
Malvika Murali
Manas Acharya
Manas Bhattacharya
Manish Pushkale
Manisha Gera Baswani
Manmeet Devgun
Mariam Suhail
Maseeh Rahman
Maya Krishna Rao
Meenakshi Shedde
Megha Mehndiratta
Mekhala Bahl
Mithu Sen
Mohita Bhatia
Mortimer Chatterjee
Mrugen Rathod
Murali Cheeroth
N.K. Sharma
Nalini Malani
Naman P. Ahuja
Nancy Adajania
Nandakumar Raman
Nandesha Shanthi Prakash
Naveen Kumar
Navjot Altaf
Navroze Contractor
Neha Choksi
Nilima Sheikh
Nimi Ravindran
Nina Sabnani
Niyati Ozha Srivatsava
P. Daroz
Pablo Bartholomew
Parthiv Shah
Parvathi Nayar
Pooja Sood
Pooja Vukosavich
Prabir Purkayasth
Pradeep Das Gupta
Prakash Babu
Prakash Moorthy
Pramod Kumar
Prashant Panjiar
Pratul Dash
Probir Gupta
Purshottam Diwakar
Pushpamala N
R. Nandakumar
R. Siva Kumar
Radhakrishnan KS
Radhika Chopra
Ragh Wodeyar
Raghavendra Rao Kulkarni
Raghu A Wodeyar
Rahaab Allana
Rahul Gudipudi
Rajendra Prasad
Rakhi Peswani
Ram Rahman
Raman Siva Kumar
Ranbir Kaleka
Randhir Singh
Ranjit Hoskote
Rashmi Munikempanna
Rasna Bhushan
Ratnabali Kant
Ravi Agarwal
Ravikumar Kashi
Reena Saini Kallat
Rekha Hebbar Rao
Renu Modi
Ribhu Borphukon
Riyas Komu
Rohini Devasher
Rohit Chawla
Rosalyn Dmello
Roshan Shahani
Ruchira Gupta
Sabeena Gadihoke
Sabih Ahmed
Sabina Kidwai
Sadanand Menon
Sagari Chhabra
Sahej Rahal
Samar Singh Jodha
Samit Das
Sandeep Biswas
Sasanka Perera
Sashi Kumar
Saurab Hura
Seher Shah
SG Vasudev
Shaina Anand
Shalini Sawhney
Shamala Billava
Shamala Nandesha
Shanta Gokhale
Shantamani Muddiah
Sharbendu De
Sheeba Chhachhi
Shefalee Jain
Shelly Bahl
Shilpa Gupta
Shireen Gandhi
Shohini Ghosh
Shreyas Karle
Shukla Sawant
Siddharth Laxman
Sindhu Thirumalaisam
Sohail Akbar
Sohail Hashmi
Sonal Khullar
Sonia Khurana
Soumyadip Ghosh
Srinath Iswaran
Subba Ghosh
Suchismita Ukil
Sudharak Olwe
Sudharshan Shetty
Sudhir Patwardhan
Sumakshi Singh
Suman Gopinath
Sumesh Sharma
Summer Kohli
Suneel Mamadapur
Suneet Chopra
Sunil Gupta
Sunil Kothari
Sunitha Kumar Emmart
Surabhi Sharma
Suresh Jayaram
Sushma Bahl
Susie Tharu
Tabasheer Zutshi
Tallur L.N.
Tanveer Ajsi
Tapati Guha
Tara Lal
Tara Sabharwal
Tasneem Zakaria Mehta
Umesh Kumar
Vani Subramanian
Vasudevan Akkitham
Veer Munshi
Vibha Galhotra
Vidisha Saini
Vidya Shivadas
Vijay Prashad
Vinod Bhardwaj
Vivan Sundaram
Vivek Vilasini
Yashodhara Dalmia

On Dr. Ashok Mitra


Date: 08-08-2009
The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust held a one day seminar Against the Neo-Liberal Thrust that is being given to the education policy by the UPA government. The seminar focused on the recently passed Right to Education Bill and the hundred days agenda of the new HRD minister Kapil Sibal.

Eminent educationists, teachers from Central Universities , Representatives of School and College Teachers’Associations attended the seminar and highlighted the dangers of the UPAs agenda in school and higher education.

The inagural session of the seminar was addressed by Sitaram Yechury, Prabhat Patnaik ( Jawaharlal Nehru University ), Muchkund Dubey (President, Council for Social Development), Yashpal and Zoya Hasan (National Commission for Minorities). All speakers in this session spoke of the need for having an equitable and publically funded educational system which also met the need of socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

Prof Patnaik stated that the university needed to be oriented towards intellectual engangagement which was not subservient to the market. This could not be achieved without fighting the neo-liberal context. Sitaram Yechury hightlighted the need for expanding state responsibility in education and increasing social control over all private educational institutions, both in terms of their fee structures and admission policies. The dangers of privatisation of educational institutions was highlighted by Prof Yashpal, while Prof Zoya Hasan emphasised the need for increasing access of minorities to state funded institutions and reducing their dependence on minority educational institutions.

The second session of the seminar focused on school education and was chaired by Arjun Dev (formerly of NCERT) and addressed by Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Ashok Agarwal (Social Jurist), Ravi Kumar (Jamia Millia Islamia) and Mr Rajendran (School Teachers Federation of India). This session highlighted the problems in the Right to Education Act and the Minister’s proposal to make 10th class examinations optional. Prof Jayati Ghosh highlighted the silences within the Right to Education Act in terms of absence of financial responsibility of the state for providing education, and on the norms for educational institutions. Ashok Agarwal used his vast experience in dealing with private schools for evaluating the ways in which the current Right to Education Bill created and institutionalised a discriminatory system against disadvantaged groups and diluted Article 45 of the Constitution guaranteeing right to education to all children from 0-14 years. This aspect was also taken up by Mr Rajendran who stressed the need to include children from 0-6 years within the ambit of the act and the need to struggle against the current neo-liberal educational agenda through a broad mobilisation of ordinary people. He also demanded a National Commission on Education and a debate on Kapil Sibal’s proposals in the CABE so that the federal structure of education was respected. Ravi Kumar highlighted the basic contradiction between the goal of achieving an equitable educational system and the broader neo-liberal context and said that the Right to Education act needs to be seen in this context.

The third session of the seminar focused on higher education and was chaired by C.P Chandrasekhar ( Jawaharlal Nehru University ). Speakers in this session included Sudhanshu Bhattacharya (NEUPA), Dhruv Raina and Soumen Bhattacharya ( Jawaharlal Nehru University ), Vijender Sharma (Democratic Teachers Forum, Delhi University ), N Raghuram ( Indraprastha University ) and Dinesh Abrol (National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies). The session highlighted the limitations of the National Knowledge Commission and Yashpal Committee with respect to their recommendations for reforming higher education. Sudhanshu Bhattacharya said that the government needed to set up a National Commission on Higher Education to check malpractices and privatisation of education. Vijender Sharma showed how the Yashpal Committee had created space for private education and why there was a need to oppose foreign investment in education. This could only be done by increasing social control over private capital. Dhruv Raina highlighted the need to democratise education and research in institutions of higher learning. Dinesh Abrol argued that technical education needed to be subservient to social goals and control and not to the market. Thus market and not overregulation was the problem. The seminar ended with a resolve to oppose the current neo-liberal agenda and called for a sustained fight to amend the right to education act for achieving equity in educational opportunities.

Press Release condemning ban

Date 3.08.2009
We are shocked to learn from press reports that the BJP government of Chhattisgarh has banned Charandas Chor, a classic of the modern Indian theatre, written and produced by Habib Tanvir. The play was first done in the 1970s, and is originally based on an oral folk tale from Rajasthan. Habib Tanvir worked on this tale, introducing into it elements of the art and beliefs of the Satnami community. Satnami singers and dancers have performed in this play, and it has been seen by members of the community several times. In Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, there are several rural troupes who are today performing some version of this play.

The play itself is the story of a thief who, under the influence of a guru, pledges never to tell a lie. He sticks to his pledge, even at the cost of his life. This superb tragic-comedy, in a thoroughly entertaining and artistic manner, brings into focus the moral and ethical degeneration of our society, in which, paradoxically, it is a thief who ends up being more honest than those who supposed to be the custodians of our morality.

Charandas Chor remains Habib Tanvir’s best-known play, and has been performed literally hundreds of times by his world-renowned Naya Theatre troupe all over India and in several countries across the world. It was made into a film by Shyam Benegal, with Smita Patil in the lead, in 1975, and was the first Indian play to win the prestigious Fringe First award at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival in 1982. It then did a successful run on the London stage.

We demand that the Chhattisgarh government immediately revoke this absurd ban.

Act One, M.K. Raina, Arvind Gaur, Moloyashree Hashmi, Asmita Theatre Group, N.K. Sharma, Bahroop Art Group, Sahmat, Brijesh, Shahid Anwar, Govind Deshpande, Sudhanva Deshpande, Jana Natya Manch, Vivan Sundaram, Jan Sanskriti, Wamiq Abbasi, Janvadi Lekhak Sangh, Javed Malick, Madangopal Singh

Press Statement Date 29.07.2009

We are deeply disturbed by attempts being made by interested quarters to take over several historically important and protected monuments in different parts of the country, in clear violation of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, on the excuse of offering worship there. Many of the monument are parts of the precious legacy of the country and under the rules framed under the Ancient Monuments Act, there can be no installation of worship wherever it had ceased.

We call upon the PM, who is also in-charge of the ministry of Culture to initiate immediate action to save these monuments from encroachment. We also call upon the Chief Minister of Delhi to rein in all such elements who are aiding and abetting the violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. We also call upon the authorities to initiate immediate steps to evict the encroachers and to take all steps to ensure the protection of all listed monuments. This should set a model for official action against law-breakers irrespective of the religious community or ritual concerned.

Irfan Habib, Ram Rahman, Amar Farooqui, D. N. Jha, Prabhat Shukla, Arjun Dev, Sohail Hashmi, Zahoor Siddiqui, Shireen Moosvi, Suraj Bhan, Suvira Jaiswal, Archana Prasad

Released to the press

To celebrate the life, theatre, politics and creativity of

Habib Tanvir

(1923-2009) join us at the memorial meeting at

6.00 p.m. 10 June 2009 Muktadhara Auditorium Banga Sanskriti Bhavan 18-19 Bhai Veer Singh Marg, near Gol Market

Jana Natya Manch Sahmat Janvadi Lekhak Sangh Directions: This is the road between Gol Market and St. Columba’s School. From south and east, take Ashok Road up to Gol Dak Khana, then Kali Bari Marg, and turn immediately right. From west and north, take Mandir Marg, Gol Market, turn right on Bhai Veer Singh Marg. Most bus routes for Shivaji Stadium take this road and will drop you in front of Muktdhara. From west and south-west, from RML Hospital, take Baba Kharag Singh Marg where there is the construction of the express metro, Gol Dak Khana, then left at Kali Bari Marg, and turn immediately right.
9868301864 (Sudhanva), 9868254822 (Moloyashree), 23711276 and 23351424 (Sahmat)

jananatyamanch@gmail.com, sahmat8@yahoo.com, jlscentre@yahoo.com

Habib Tanvir
, the legend of contemporary Indian theatre, was also a writer, poet, actor, organiser of progressive writers and people’s theatre - passed away on June 8, 2009 at Bhopal. Habib Tanvir, whose plays make him a true citizen of the world will always be remembered for his abiding commitment to the values of secularism and progressive ideas.

For us at SAHMAT, Habib Saheb was an inspiring presence as its founder trustee and its chairman after Bhisham Sahni’s passing away in 2003. His was one of the most militant voices in the spontaneous protest after Safdar Hashmi’s brutal murder in 1989. Habib Tanvir had earlier collaborated with Safdar Hashmi in dramatizing Premchand’s story

Mote Ram Ka Satyagraha”. Habib was an important organizer and participant in SAHMAT’s Hum Sab Ayodhya exhibition and the Mukt Naad cultural sit-in in Ayodhya in 1993, after the Babri Masjid demolition.

Habib Tanvir was born on September 1923 at Raipur, Chattisgarh. After initial education at Nagpur, he went to RADA in 1955 and travelled in Europe during 1956-57. He became the organiser, secretary, playwright and actor-director of IPTA during 1948-50.

In 1954 he had directed ‘Agra Bazar’ which he himself described as “the first serious experiment integrating song with drama and rural actors with urban” For the last 55 years Agra Bazar’ has been performed all over the country countless number of times. He founded Naya Theatre in 1958. Habib’s abiding contribution to contemporary culture will be his remarkable incorporation of traditions of folk and tribal theatre, music and language into his modern formal craft. The power of his plays delighted and moved audiences cutting across all class boundaries from the man on the street to the powerful elite.

During the last two decades Habib Tanvir had through his plays invited the ire of the Sangh Parivar and the reactionary forces for firmly standing against fundamentalism and obscurantism through plays like “Ponga Pandit”, “ Zamadarin”.

Habib Tanvir will be missed by progressive artists all over the country. His passing marks the end of an era.

To Nagin and the artists of Naya Theatre we convey our heart-felt condolences.

Statement on 14-04-2009

Press Statement on Tendentious Reporting in Media

We are deeply disturbed by the tendentious reports in the media of the Supreme Court proceedings on April 13 dealing with the S I T report on the Gujarat carnage of 2002.

This unhealthy trend in the media reporting is going to seriously compromise the credibility of the media and undermine “ freedom of expression” enjoyed by the media which we all cherish.

An impression being created in a section of the media that the former CBI director R K Raghvan who led the S I T has “told” the court that Teesta Setalvad “ cooked up macabre tales of wanton killing” is mischievious. Only the Supreme Court, the amicus curiae and the Gujarat government have access to the report. The S I T has not filed any other document in court to which the media has access nor was Mr. Raghvan in the Court. It is therefore obvious that the media is only uncritically reporting what the Gujarat government’s lawyer said in the note liberally distributed to the press outside the Court.

While the Supreme Court observed that there was no room for allegations and counter allegations at this late stage, the media coverage has brazenly flouted this observation by reporting the totally baseless allegations against social activist Teesta Setalvad and the organisation she represents Citizen for Justice and Peace on the basis of the Gujarat government’s note circulated in the Court. This is all the more reprehensible because Teesta Setalvad and Citizen for Justice and Peace have neither been given a copy of the S I T report nor has their response been sought in the matter.

The proceedings in the Supreme Court related to the response of the Gujarat government and the amicus curiae Shri Harish Salve to the S I T report. The very fact that the Supreme Court had to set up the S I T to correct the miscarriage of justice due to the tardy investigation by the state of Gujarat was highlighted in the court’s observation that but for the S I T investigation many more accused, who were freshly added, would not have been brought to book. It was the untiring efforts of Teesta Setalvad and the CJP and the National Human Rights Commission that persuaded the Supreme Court to set up the S I T and on the basis of its findings further arrests have been made of persons who held administrative and ministerial positions in the government of Gujarat.


Statement on 23.3.2009

Open Letter to NDA Allies condemning Varun Gandhi’s hate speech

Press Release March 23, 2008

Open Letter to NDA Allies

The Citizens for Justice amd Peace (CJP) and SAHMAT urge the various allies who constitute the NDA coalition and who believe in Constitutional Governance to not only condemn outright, the communal hate-ridden speeches of Varun Gandhi while campaigning in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh but to ensure that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not nominate him as a candidatefort he forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The letter has been written to Nitish Kumar of JD(U), Om Prakash Chautala Indian National Lok Dal, President Assom Gana Parishad and Ajit Singh of the RLD.

Varun Gandhi’s hate speech epitomises the core of the BJP’s supremist and ultra nationalist ideology that has always targeted India’s syncretic civilisational ethos and specifically (and crudely) targets Muslims, Christians and others sections of Indian.

The BJP’s core ideology stems from its politcal heart the Rashtryiya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and is openly being backed by the BJP party.

The allies of the NDA who swear by the Indian Constitution need need to make their position clear on Varun Gandhi’s speech and his possible prospective nomination as a Lok Sabha candidate from Pilibhit. Not to oppose his nomination and candiadture as Lok Sabha candidate is to support not just Varun Gandhi but the BJP that has grown from strength to strength through flagrant violations of the Indian Constitution and the rule of law.

In the past, prime minsterial aspirant Shri LK Advani has been known to have indulged in similar hate mongering (en route to Ayodhya in December 1992); senior party leaders like Shri Murli Manohar Joshi have also committed similar offences; Gujarat chief minister Naremdra Modi’s statements on the internally displaced refugees livng in pathetic conditions in relief camps of the state in 2002 were not just violations of the law, but shocking; fratermal organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parisgad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (BD) have taken the entire content and tempo of hate speech to the levels of a cynical game and continue to indulge in these criminal violations because they escape the long arms of the law.

It is about time that all those political players who have a stake in the future of Indian democracy, who are fighting the elections and especially those who have in the past and still continue to support the BJP-driven NDA come clean on Varun Gandhi’s speech and oppose his nomination as a BJP canbdidate. Not to do so would be to support the content of the violence ridden speech made by him.

Teesta Setalvad, Javed Akhtar, Javed Anand, Rahul Bose, Vivan Sundaram, Ram Rahman, MK Raina, Shakti Kjak, Archana Prasad, Madhu Prasad, CP Chandrashekhar, Indira Chandrashekhar, Badri Raina, Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Chanchal Chauhan

Minister of Information & Broadcasting
Govt. of India
New Delhi
Dear Minister,

We are deeply shocked at the decision to cancel the screening of a documentary made by the eminent Indian painter M.F. Husain, after it had been scheduled for November 25 at the ongoing International Film Festival of India in Goa. We are also profoundly alarmed at the wider implications of this act of blatant censorship imposed on artistic production. You are surely aware of the background to this decision by the Directorate of Film Festivals. On November 22, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) and an affiliated body that calls itself the Sanatan Sanstha, petitioned the chief minister of Goa and the director of the film festival, urging that the screening be cancelled since it involved a person who had allegedly caused offence to the “religious and National sentiments of crores of Hindus and Indians (sic)”. Almost at the same time, activists of the same two bodies carried out a series of protests in the city of Mumbai, in the vicinity of the Films Division office. As the website of the HJS puts it: they made a “representation with a warning” to the Films Division officials, about the plan to screen the Husain documentary. Then, in the narration on the HJS website: the official at Mumbai had “a long discussion with the Chief Officers in the Film Division”, “tried to contact the officers in Goa and New Dehli (sic) again and again and finally told the delegation at 3.30 in the evening that the screening of the abovementioned film was cancelled”. The craven and unprincipled capitulation by the film festival organisers has been portrayed by the HJS as “one more feather” in its cap (http://www.hindujagruti.org/news/5830.html). At the same time, the official response has been to either feign ignorance or pretend that the issue is of little consequence. The chief minister of Goa has reportedly said that he had no knowledge of the entire process and the director of film festivals has taken the position that the screening was being “deferred”. Frankly, we are appalled at this abject failure of principle and the thorough abdication of responsibility by officials entrusted with safeguarding the autonomy of cultural and artistic production. The HJS and its affiliated organisation, the Sanatan Sanstha are, as you would know, under investigation by police and intelligence agencies for their possible complicity in a number of terrorist actions in the country. Indeed, the option of declaring them “unlawful” organisations, is reportedly under active consideration. You would also be aware that the HJS has for years been the central switching-board for a number of cases against M.F. Husain, lodged on the grounds of “obscenity”, “causing ill-will on grounds of religion” and “incitement”. This entire range of charges was considered by the Delhi High Court and in a historic verdict of May 8, held to be completely without substance. The Delhi High Court finding was upheld by the Supreme Court. However, the HJS and its associates have managed to effectively mobilise a sufficient number of complainants scattered all over the country, and the Supreme Court is yet to decide on a petition requesting that all cases be brought within its jurisdiction. You would appreciate then, that the continuing harassment of one of India’s greatest living artists, is a consequence of technical procedures involved in the administration of justice and most importantly, the failure of the administrative authorities to stand up to the coercive strategies of bodies that are currently under investigation for terrorism offences. We urge you to reflect upon the consequences that this would have, for the faith that the common man places in the system of administration he lives under. We urge you moreover, to reflect upon the consequences for artistic production in this country. Husain’s documentary was produced in 1967 and has been widely recognised and awarded by the most discerning judges. It is a sad day for creative activity everywhere, when work of such calibre is deprived of an audience, because of the power of the mob. In the interests of cultural freedom, we urge you to rescind the ban on Husain and allow his documentary to be screened at the ongoing film festival. In anticipation,


Vivan SundaramRam Rahman

ATTACK ON SAHMAT exhibition!

Protest meeting at 11 am on 25 August, at SAHMAT

SAHMAT had organized an exhibition of reproductions of eminent artist M.F. Husain’s works on 22, 23 and 24 August 2008, to coincide with the three-day Art Fair at the India Art Summit, Pragati Maidan, Delhi , at which galleries had been advised not to show the artist’s work. The exhibition had on display, apart from reproductions of Husain’s paintings, eight photographs of Husain by Parthiv Shah, two photographs of Husain painting a hoarding by Madan Mahatta, and three photographs from Husain’s ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ series from the Village Art Gallery, Delhi.

On Sunday, 24 August, at around 3.30 pm, the exhibition, which was being held in a shamiana outside the SAHMAT office, was attacked and vandalised by 8 to 10 miscreants. The television channel ETV, whose crew was present, has recorded the entire episode. The vandals ran away from the scene after destroying the framed photographs and prints, a television set and DVD player (on which Husain’s films were being screened), and furniture. The artist Arpana Caur, and Anil Chandra and Santosh Sharma, SAHMAT members, were witnesses to the episode.

In protest against the attack on SAHMAT and the vandalism, the exhibition has been extended, in ‘as-is’, vandalised condition, for a day – till the evening of 25 August.

A meeting to protest against this cowardly attack, and the attempt on the part of rightwing forces to impose a narrow, majoritarian view of our culture, was held on Monday, 25 August, at 11 am, outside the SAHMAT office at 8 Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg. Those present at the protest meeting, and those who have sent messages of solidarity, include:

Abhijeet Tamhane, Aditi Magaldas, Aditi Raina, Ajay Srivastava, Akila Jayaraman, Albeena Shakil, Ali Abbas Yakutpura, Aman Farooqi, Amar Farooqi, Anant Raina, Anil Chandra, Anjali Raina, Anup Karar, Arpana Caur, Asad Zaidi, Ashalata, Ashok Kumari, Ashok Rao, Aziz Ahmed Khan, Badri Raina, Bani Joshi, Brinda Karat, C.P. Chandrasekhar, Chanchal Chauhan, Dadi Pudumjee, Danish Ali, Dayanand Singh, Dhiresh, Faizan Farooqi, Gautam Navlakha, Geeta Kapur, Geetanjali Shree, Hannan Mollah, Inder Salim, Indira Chandrasekhar, Irfan Habib, Jatin Das, Jauhar Kanungo, Javed Malick, Javed Naqvi, Jayati Ghosh, K. Bikram Singh, Kalpana Sahni, Kamakumar Hirawat, Kanishka Prasad, Kanti Mohan, Kumi Chandra, Lima Kanungo, M.K. Raina, M.M.P. Singh, Madan Gopal Singh, Madhu Prasad, Maimoona Mollah, Manjira Datta, Martand Khosla, Mithilesh Srivastav, N.D. Jayaprakash, N.K. Sharma, N.S. Arjun, Nalini Taneja, Nandita Narayan, Nandita Rao, Naslima Shahana, Neeraj Malick, Nilotpal Basu, Nina Rao, P. Madhu, P.K. Shukla, Parth Tiwari,
Parthiv Shah, Prabhat Patnaik, Preeti Bawa, Pushpamala N., Qausar Hashmi, Radhika Menon, Rahul Verma, Raj Chauhan, Rajendra Prasad, Rajendra Usapkar, Rajinder Arora, Rajinder Sharma, Rajiv Jha, Rajni B. Arora, Ram Nivas Tyagi, Ram Rahman, Riyaz Ahmed Bhat, Romi Khosla, S. Kalidas, S.M. Mishra, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Sahba Farooqi, Sahba Husain, Sahiram, Samar S. Jodha, Sania Hashmi, Santosh Sharma, Sashi Kumar, Shabi Ahmad, Shakeel Ahmed, Shamim Farooqi, Shamshad, , Shamsul Islam, Shankar Chandra, Shanta Chopra,
Sheena Bhalla, Shireen Moosvi, Shruti Singhi, Shubha Mudgal, Sitaram Yechury, Sohail Hashmi, Sravan Kumar, Subhashini Ali, Sudha Sundararaman, Sudhir Chandra, Sudhir Suman, Sukumar Muraleedharan, Suneet Chopra, T.S. Johar, Utsa Patnaik, Uzma Mollah, V. Srinivasa Rao, Vandana Sharma, Veer Munshi, Vidya Shah, Vijay S. Jodha, Vijender Sharma, Vivan Sundaram.

Press Statement

We are surprised and unhappy at the decision of the organisers of the first India Art Summit to exclude the works of MF Husain from the displays of all the participating galleries from across India . The Art summit and three day fair, which opens at the Trade Fair venue in Delhi on the 22nd, is also supported by the Ministry of Culture. While the organisers may have made this decision out of a fear of attacks or protests against the work of Husain, by giving in to such threats by extremist political groups, they are playing into the hands of these forces. It is the duty of the state and the police to protect our institutions and citizens against threats of violence and surely the Trade Fair authorities and the Delhi police are capable of confronting any such threat. An earlier exhibit by Husain continued at the India International Centre last December under just such assurances by the Delhi police.For the artists community, Husain is the reigning father-figure, commanding enormous respect. In fact, Husain has been single-handedly responsible for putting Indian art on the world map and equally responsible for creating the world market boom in Indian art, without which such a summit and fair would not be taking place in Delhi at this moment. It is therefore deeply ironical that his work is being excluded by dictat. We request the organisers to rethink this decision. In solidarity with Husain, Sahmat will show Images of his work on all three days of the summit outside its office at 8 Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg. We invite all the citizens of Delhi and all artists to come view his work at Sahmat.
Ram Rahman, MK Raina, Madan Gopal Singh, Sohail Hashmi, Parthiv Shah, Vivan Sundaram, Indira Chandrasekhar, Geeta Kapur, K Bikram Singh