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Attack on Freedom of Speech and ex-pression in Rajasthan

Rajasthan going the Gujarat way

A case of outraging religious sentiments ( sec. 295- {a}IPC ) was lodged against Bhanu Bharti, well known theatre person and Director of the Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur on 10th February, 2004. The Bajrang Dal vibhag sanyojak, Kamlendra Panwar lodged a case at the Hathipole police station in Udaipur. His written application stated that the Director's room's of Lok Kala Mandal had indecent posters of Hindu God's and Godesses. He presented photographs of those posters. Deputy Superintendent police Yogesh Goyal along with the SHO of Hathipole Police Station, went and seized seven of these posters from the Director's room who was out of station at that point of time. About 50 Bajrang Dal workers went with the police when it carried out its operation at Lok Kala Mandal.

These posters were created for use in a campaign on child and maternal health and prevention of HIV/ AIDS by the Lok Kala Mandal at the behest of two organisations, CARE and RACHNA. They were developed from paintings made by well known painter Shail Choyal. The artist had used the symbols of Sita, Ganesh, Krishna and Ravana to communicate the importance of breast feeding and safe motherhood. The pilot campaign had consisted of taking these seven posters along with a play to about 25 villages where they were field tested. According to both the artist Shail Choyal and the Director Bhanu Bharti, the villagers had responded postively to the posters and there was no feed back that they were indecent or that any of the visuals were objectionable.

Police action and that too at the behest of the Bajrang Dal has shocked many in Rajasthan. Several artists, theatre persons, writers and people associated with the democratic rights and human rights movement both in Udaipur and Jaipur met and condemned this action of the police. They have called it an attack on the right to creative and free ex-pression. The groups have demanded immediate closure of the case against the Director Bhanu Bharti and an apology by the police who carried out this action. The have also demanded that a probe be carried out into this entire episode.

The Udaipur group met the District Collector today on the 12th of February, and demanded that a probe be carried out into this episode, the police be questioned for violating the sanctity of a cultural centre and the cases against the Director be closed immediately

The Jaipur group tried to meet the State Chief Minister, who also holds the portfolios of Home, Culture, Law, Women and many others departments. She was in Delhi today and so were the Chief Secretary to the Government and the Home Secretary. We also plan to go to the State Human Rights Commission and move a PIL if need be.

Several renowned art lovers, writers, journalists and activists from all over the country have also condemned this act and called it an attack on Democracy.

We would like all of you to condemn the matter and send messages to the Rajasthan Chief Minster to take back the cases against the Director Bhanu Bharti and put a stop to the Bajrang Dal, RSS, Banvasi Kalyan Parishad and the VHP from taking over Public Institutions. The fax nos of the CM are 0141/2227934 & 2227305. You can also send a message to the CM by going to http://rajasthan.gov.in/Cmsugeng.shtm


A FULL Day Protest against the "attack on the freedom of speech and ex-pression" has been Planned by Theatre Persons, Painters, Writers and other democratic rights movement persons on the 15th of February, 2004 at the Safdar Hashmi Corner, Ram Niwas Bagh, Jaipur from 11.30 am onwards. 

All are Welcome!


Ranbir Singh, Surendra Joshi, Prem Krishna Sharma, Dilip Singh, Vidya Sagar Upadhaya, Sabir Khan, Rajendra Saiwal, Om Prakash Mathur, Komal Chand Jain, Dr. Narendra Gupta, Mamta Jaitly, Vakar-Ul-Ahad, Nishat Hussein, Komal Srivastava, Sumitra Chopra, Shri Prakash, Rajaram Bhadu, Sunil Ghildiyal, Ajay Jain, Ashish Maharishi, Teesta Setalvad ,Kapil, Manish, Ishwar, Lokesh, Kavita Srivastava and many others