Writers, artists and academics speak out against discrimination at the India Art Fair (IAF)

Image courtesy: Niha Masin | Twitter

We, the undersigned, express solidarity with the young artists who were subjected to intimidation and discrimination at and by the India Art Fair (IAF) on the 2nd of February 2020. We strongly condemn the absolutely unethical and prejudiced attitude displayed by the Fair management towards these artists.

On the 2nd of February, a group of artists were participating in an invited live-art performance at the India Art Fair on the theme of strength of women and communal harmony, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources. A musician was also performing in the same booth.

The police disrupted the programme on account of an anonymous complaint, intimidated the participating artists, and proceeded to shut down the performance entirely. The officials at IAF did not intervene on behalf of the artists at this or any other point during the time that the police were present and interrogating them. In fact, officials from IAF were aggressive with the artists, refused to listen, shouted at them, and even tried to have the artwork removed from the wall. The festival director is reported to have come to the booth and failed to extend support to the artists, as well. Eventually, the artwork was thrown on the floor by Delhi Police, and the booth was sealed by IAF. Thereafter, the artists went outside where the police proceeded to question them on the use of Urdu poetry and calligraphy in the work. But after the poetry (excerpted from a well-known ghazal by Iqbal) was translated for them, the police decided there was nothing there which could be called an offence and said that there would be no further action taken. However, they did ask for and note down the name of the ‘artist in the hijab’. They revealed that the anonymous “complaint” they received informed them of ‘an artwork at IAF being made  by someone wearing clothes resembling the women sitting in Shaheen Bagh’. This line of inquiry openly targeted and discriminated against the female Muslim artists wearing hijab who participated in the programme. When the artists returned to the booth after the police left, the artwork was nowhere to be found and has since been untraceable.

Throughout this time, the officials at the fair, instead of stepping in and listening to the artists and examining the situation fully, abdicated their responsibilities and left the artists and the curator to reason and negotiate with the police. The key question remains why IAF not only failed to stand by the artists but were also active participants in the harassment meted out to them. They have further later claimed to the police and public that they had no knowledge that the event was happening, which has since been proved to be false as the artists leading the programme have publicly shared the invitation in which the event is listed. This invitation had been widely circulated at and prior to the fair. Other artists at the fair have even attested to this.

The abdication of responsibility by IAF and their absolutely unjustifiable treatment of the young artists is not acceptable. In fact, given the details of this case, IAF’s behaviour is itself absolutely discriminatory. This episode reveals a shocking lack of knowledge  as well as regard for the culture of the very country that the fair claims to represent. Moreover, it is not acceptable to allow artists’ expression to be curtailed on account of an anonymous complaint, especially when that complaint reeks of nothing but deep seated and reprehensible Islamophobia. The fact that the art fair has tried to insulate itself from the ongoing movement against CAA, NRC, and NPR by creating a “zero-tolerance” policy against banners and sloganeering is a troubling violation of the right to dissent. That this policy was framed in terms of “safety” is ignorant and misleading given that those participating in this non-violent movement have actually been at the receiving end of brutal violence in the form of lathi-charge, beating and, even, bullets at hands of security forces and law-enforcement agencies. That the same agencies were allowed to target and intimidate young artists on the basis of an Islamophobic complaint is an unacceptable lack of sensitivity towards the vulnerability of marginalized peoples in this current political milieu. Ideologies of bigotry cannot be allowed to determine who can create art, where they can create it, what its content can be or what artists can wear while making it, even if that bigotry is being endorsed by a law enforcement agency.

Indian artists deserve and demand more support from platforms that sell their work and claim to represent the artistic community of the country. Are the politics of art works only to be profited from (there were some explicitly political artworks at other booths which were artistic comments on the abuse of the constitution in several ways) but not defended when the vulnerabilities and dangers that accompany having those politics play out at our fairs and galleries? The question also must be asked about the role hierarchy plays in deciding whether artists get the support they need from  art institutions. All of these artists are very young and only starting out their careers with an admirable commitment to make their art a site of engagement with the society they live in.

We stand by their conviction to make their art practice speak of solidarities, express dissent and celebrate diversity. We demand that the India Art Fair apologise to them.

  1. Preksha  tater, Artist, SURAT
  2. Annapurna Garimella, Jackfruit Research & Design, New Delhi
  3. Kathyayini Dash, University of Cape Town, PhD Performance, Cape Town
  4. Akhilesh Arya, Independent, Gurgaon
  5. Amar Kanwar, Artist, New Delhi
  6. Gauri Gill, Artist, New Delhi
  7. Shivangi Singh, Artist, New Delhi
  8. Latika Gupta, Delhi
  9. Sheila Makhijani, Artist, New Delhi
  10. Rakhi Peswani, Bangalore
  11. Anupama Srinivasan, Filmmaker,
  12. Paribartana Mohanty, Artist, New Delhi
  13. Ankita Srivastava, M.Phil Visual Studies,  SAA, JNU, New Delhi
  14. Shefalee Jain, Artist, New Delhi
  15. Shivani Kasumra, MPhil Student, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  16. Kshiraja, Art + design,
  17. Rohini Devasher, Delhi
  18. Anna Dasgupta, Gurgaon
  19. Vaskar Mech, JNU, Delhi
  20. Anupam, Visual Artist, New Delhi
  21. Gitika debnath, SFI, JNU Unit, Delhi
  22. Anupam Saikia, Visual Artist, New Delhi
  23. Aishwarya Walvekar, Theatre and Performance Studies Research Fellow, , Delhi
  24. Shrishti, Agency, Bangalore
  25. Lalita, IIT Delhi, Delhi
  26. Arundhati Chauhan, New Delhi
  27. Anurupa, Artist, Delhi
  28. Souradeep Rpy, Theatre/ Literary translator, Kolkata
  29. Santhosh S., AUD, New Delhi
  30. Rajdeep Konar, IIT Delhi, New Delhi
  31. Gayatri Sharma, New Delhi
  32. Narendran Nair, Student, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, VADODARA
  33. Indira Chowdhury, Public History, Bengaluru
  34. Priyanka D’Souza, Artist, MUMBAI
  35. Vasvi Oza, Artist, Art Educator, Bangalore
  36. Suresh kumar G, Artist, Bengaluru
  37. Shriya Kalra, Art student, Baroda
  38. Divvya Mishra, MPhil Scholar, Visual Studies, SAA, Delhi
  39. Jay Patel, Student ( BA hons. Philosophy), MSU Baroda,, Baroda
  40. Parth Trivedi, NAPM, Gujarat, Baroda
  41. Rohan, Student, Delhi
  42. Nishant, Actor, Delhi
  43. Agastaya, Research, Delhi
  44. Ameet Parmeswaran, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  45. Palak, ,
  46. jagdish chand, freelance writer – designer- translator, delhi
  47. Kavita Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  48. saba hasan, artist, new delhi
  49. Sania, IIT Delhi, New Delhi
  50. Aastha Banerjee, Student at JNU, New Delhi
  51. Sanchayan Ghosh, Visual art and Academic Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  52. Balbir Krishan, Artist, New York
  53. Tehsin, Journalism and Communication, Vadodara
  54. Karan Kapoor, , New Delhi
  55. Bula Bhattacharya, Visual Artist, NOIDA
  56. Lokesh, Artist, Delhi
  57. Deepti Mulgund, Kunsthistoriches Institut in Florenz, Berlin
  58. Chinmaya Solanki, Student, Vadodara
  59. Vivek Gupta, SOAS University of London, History of Art, London
  60. Vaishnavi Ghatge, Literature, Delhi
  61. Anita E Cherian, Ambedkar University Delhi, Delhi
  62. Mrinalini Sil, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi
  63. AVIK DEBDAS, Art Student, Delhi
  64. Rukmini, Student, Bangalore
  65. Belinder Dhanoa, Ambedkar University Delhi / writer, Delhi
  66. Vasudha Thozhur, Artist, Greater Noida
  67. Rini Dasgupta, , Delhi
  68. Bazik Thlana, Artist, New Delhi
  69. Ankur Arora, Ma Visual arts, New Delhi
  70. Ghazala parveen, Artist, Delhi
  71. farheen bano, artist, delhi
  72. Sahej Rahal, Artist, Mumbai
  73. Stuti, Student, New Delhi
  74. Ranjan Azad, New delhi
  75. Suraj Thakur, Patna
  76. Parvej Ahmad, Bareily
  77. Yousuf Saeed, Tasveer Ghar, New Delhi
  78. Sharmila Samant, Artist, Greater Noida
  79. Asma, Artist, New Delhi
  80. nikhileswar baruah, artist, vadodara/guwahati
  81. Anirban, Research Scholar, New Delhi
  82. Shivangi kalra, College of Art, Delhi
  83. Arjun m, Visual art, Delhi
  84. Bolan Gangopadhyay, Freelance journalist & Human rights activist, Kolkata
  85. Saruha, Student, Delhi
  86. Mahima Ahluwalia, Art Student, Delhi
  87. Ashish Dha, NAADAALAY, New Delhi
  88. Sumitra, Independent Curtaor, Bangalore
  89. Sana, Teacher, India
  90. Chinar Shah, , Bangalore
  91. Meenakshi Thirukode, , New Delhi
  92. Sarada Natarajan, Art historian, Bangalore, Karnataka
  93. Atul Bhalla, Artist, New Delhi
  94. Navraj Choudhury, Student, New Delhi
  95. Ita, Artreach India, Delhi
  96. Puneet Kaushik, Artist, New Delhi
  97. Vivek Premachandran, Artist / Graphic Designer, New Delhi
  98. Bishnupriya Dutt, SAA, JNU, Delhi
  99. Suresh B V, Fine Arts, S N School, UoH, Hyderabad
  101. Preetha Kannan, Artist, Mumbai
  102. Shreya Sahai, Student, New Delhi
  103. Pallavi Paul, Artist, New Delhi
  104. Sudeshna, , New Delhi
  105. Adwait Singh, Visual Arts, New Delhi
  106. Vebhuti Duggal, Ambedkar University Delhi,
  107. Sandip K Luis, Researcher, New Delhi
  108. Jyothidas K V, Artist, New Delhi
  109. Raam Jator, Artist, Chandigarh
  110. Aryakrishnan R, Visual Artist, Cochin
  111. Jatin Sharma, IIT Delhi, New Delhi
  112. Subhrojyoti Mukherjee, Publishing, Visual Arts, Mumbai
  113. Arundhati Ghosh, Arts Professional, Bangalore
  114. Mallika Prasad, Actors Ensemble India Forum (AEIF), Bangalore
  115. Shamya Dasgupta, Journalist, Bengaluru
  116. Ajitha G S, Publishing, Bangalore
  117. Deepika B, Ambedkar University Delhi, New Delhi
  118. Anubhav stal, Round them oranges, Jaipur
  119. Anupama Chandra, Film, New Delhi
  120. Nalini B, Mysuru
  121. patuldavemukherji@gmail.com, JNU, New Delhi
  122. Sabitha Satchi, Curator and writer, Delhi
  124. Komita Dhanda, Jana Natya Manch, Delhi
  125. Reyansh Naarang, Nazariya LGBT/ Activist, Delhi
  126. Nevish, We embrAce / Human rights and animal rights, New Delhi
  127. Snigdha Tiwari, ,
  128. Quasar Thakore Padamsee, Theatre, Mumbai
  129. Prerna, Artist, TrondheimDelhi
  130. Siddhant, Writer, Baroda
  131. Sharvari Deshpande, Student, Vadodara
  132. Sunil Shanbag, Mumbai
  133. Nimi Ravindran, theatre, Banaalore
  134. Shiva Pathak, Arts Administrator, Bangalore
  135. Sohrab Hura, ,
  136. Nimi Ravindran, Theatre, BANGALORE
  137. Akansha Rastogi, Researcher and curator, New delhi
  138. Subba ghosh, Artist, Delhi
  139. Abhijeet Tamhane, Art Critic, Mumbai
  140. Chithra K. S., Art, Baroda
  141. Rahul Gudipudi, The Story of Foundation, Goa
  142. Alita Chandra Wig., Art, New Delhi
  143. Amala Dasarathi, Lawyer, Delhi
  144. Arshad hakim, , Bengaluru
  145. Dr. Mohan Rao, Researcher, Bangalore
  146. Yashodhara Dalmia, Art Historian, New Delhi
  147. Rosalyn Dmello, Writer, Delhi
  148. KAUSHAL KUMAR SONKARIYA, Jamia Millia Islamia/Fine Art, New Delhi
  149. Shivaji K Panikkar, Retired professor/Art Historian, Delhi/Vadodara
  150. Lnv srinivas, Teaching, Hyderabad
  151. Shalmali Shetty, MA Curatorial Student, GSA, Glasgow
  152. Rimli Bhattacharya, Writing, Translation, Art and Cinema, Delhi
  153. Priyadarshini Ohol, Artist, Dharamshala / Mumbai
  154. Renuka Rajiv, None, Bangalore
  155. Manuela Ciotti, Aarhus University, Aarhus
  156. Sabeena Gadihoke, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
  157. Charanjit Singh, Sculpture, Chandigarh
  158. Krupa, Birkbeck, University of London, London
  159. Nikhil KC, Artist, Delhi
  160. Boris Colin, Visual Art, London
  161. Annalisa Mansukhani, , New Delhi
  162. Shruti Karmarkar, Theatre, Pune
  163. Subhajit Maity, Theatre, Kolkata
  164. Anarya, Artist and art educator, Delhi
  165. Srirupa Prasad, University of Missouri-Columbia/Education, Columbia, MO, USA
  166. Ayesha Aggarwal, Visual arts, Mumbai
  167. R.V. Ramani, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  168. Navneet Kaur, Art Student, Chandigarh
  169. Sarita Chouhan, Art, Mumbai
  170. Christin Glauser, theatre/transdisziplinary work, Zürich
  171. Jitender, Poet and Theater Artist, Delhi
  172. Seraina Dür, Artist, Zurich
  173. Bobby Sayers, Independent artist, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  174. Anja, Academic Researcher, Zurich and Basel Switzerland
  175. Carmen José, Visual art, Rotterdam
  176. Mishta Roy, Design, Bangalore
  177. Adam Turl, Artist, editor at Locust Review, Instructor at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
  178. benjamin meyer-krahmer, academy of fine arts leipzig, berlin
  179. dabumayanglambam, Individual, Mapusa
  180. Cyril Sam, Independent journalist, New Delhi
  181. Ishita Biswas, visual art, Ghaziabad, UP
  182. Meghna Singh, New Delhi
  183. swadha, psychologist, mumbai
  184. Parvez Imam, Performance and Visual artist, Basel
  185. Mustafa Khanbhai, Artist, Goa
  186. susanne winterling, artist, trondheim/berlin
  187. MK Rao, vismayah, NEW DELHI
  188. Aban Raza, Independent, New Delhi
  189. Sanjib Mukhopadhyay, Individual, Kolkata
  190. Bhamati S, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  191. Manmeet Devgun, Artist, Delhi
  192. Probir Gupta, New Delhi
  193. Priya Chauhan, Collection Manager of a private collection in Delhi., Delhi
  194. Kaushal Kumar Sonkariya, Jamia Millia Islamia/visual art, Delhi
  195. Saba Dewan, Film maker, Gurgaon
  196. Dipanwita Donde, Researcher – Art History, New Delhi
  197. K.Satchidanandan, Writer, Delhi
  198. Pushpamala N, Artist, Bangalore
  199. Sashi Kumar, Media, Chennai
  200. Debjani Sengupta, Academic, Delhi
  201. Jaya Neupaney, Winter School on Art/Law, Los Angeles
  202. Vidur Sethi, Artist, Delhi
  203. Shaunak Mahbubani, Curator, Delhi
  204. Manishikha Baul, Independent performing artist, Delhi-NCR
  205. Sanchita Sharma,  PhD student in Culture and Performance, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
  206. Ishani Butalia,  Delhi
  207. supriya seth,
  208. Kokila Bhattacharya, Art, BHOPAL
  209. Jyotsna Siddharth, Actor, Delhi
  210. I , Archana Shastri am in solidarity with CWST., Director, Museum
  211. Siem Reap, CambodiaShaista Anwar, Academic, art historian, New Delhi
  212. Irfan Zuberi, NaadSaagar Archives & Documentation Society for South Asian Music/Audiovisual Archives, Delhi
  213. Nirali Lal, Artist, vadodara
  214. Ayesha Parikh, Art consultant, Mumbai
  215. Kaustubh Naik, JNU, NEW DELHI
  216. Sakhinala Santhosh Kumar, , Hyderabad
  217. Mandeep Raikhy, Gati Dance Forum/ AUD, New Delhi
  218. Premjish Achari, Curator and Art Historian, New Delhi
  219. Manmeet sandhu, Visual arts, Delhi
  220. Dr. Varunika Saraf, Artist and Art Historian, Hyderabad
  221. Sukanya Deb, ,
  222. B Ajay Sharma, Visual Artisy, Chandigarh
  223. Mahima Bhayana, Miniature Painting, Delhi
  224. Kaushal Kumar Sonkariya, Jamia Millia Islamia/ Fine Arts, New Delhi
  225. Deepikah, Artist, Bangalore
  226. Karthik Venkatesh, Editor and Writer, Bangalore
  227. Sahil Arora, Method Art Space, Mumbai
  228. Githa Hariharan, ,
  229. archana hande, Artist, Mumbai
  230. Chandrakant Patil, Writer, Poet, Pune
  231. Salim Yusufji, ,
  232. Mallika Sarabhai, Performance artist activist, AHMEDABAD
  233. Devaki Khanna, Freelance editor, Bangalore
  234. Dr.Shoma A.Chatterji, Journalism and authorship, Kolkata
  235. This discrimination must be stopped without any further dealy., Academic, Writer, NEW DELHI
  236. SG Vasudev, Artist, BENGALURU
  237. Amit Bhaduri, Economics professor., Delhi
  238. Vibha Maurya, Delhi University, Delhi
  239. Saad Ahmad, Journalist, Delhi
  240. Javed Malick, Academic (Retired), Delhi University, Delhi
  241. Rongili Biswas, Music, literature, Kolkata
  242. Sudhanva Deshpande, LeftWord Books and Jana Natya Manch, New Delhi
  243. Gyan Prakash, Princeton University, Princeton
  244. Heemanshu Sharma, Sounds of Democracy, Delhi
  245. Sonam Chaturvedi, Artist, New Delhi
  246. Shaibani Azam, AJKMCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
  247. Samira Bose, Art Worker, New Delhi
  248. Vidisha, Arts & Music, Delhi
  249. Stuti Mamen, Santiniketan
  250. Abhishek Hazra, Artist, Bangalore
  251. Smytta Yadav, Anthropology, London
  252. Saleem Peeradina, Professor and writer,
  253. Bidisha Mahanta, , Delhi
  254. Smriti Mehra, Artist, Bangalore
  255. Saumya Baijal, Independent writer and poet. Ad person., Gurgaon
  256. Nilanjana Nandy, Artist educator, Gurgaon
  257. Nihaal Faizal, , Bangalore
  258. Mamta Sagar, Poet, Bengaluru
  259. Koustav Nag, Artist, Delhi
  260. R Srivatsan, Culture and philosophy, Hyderabad
  261. Nilima Sheikh, Painter, Vadodara
  262. Rahul Bhandare, Comic Artist, Mumbai
  263. Sama Haq, Critical Collective, Delhi
  264. Snigdha, ,
  265. Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi, Knowledge solution, New Delhi
  266. Rita Datta, Art writing, Kolkata
  267. Shireen Saudamini Mubayi, Student, New Delhi
  268. Noor Vasundhara Mubayi, School, New Delhi
  269. Vera Leisibach, Artist, Luzern (CH)
  270. Ajit Kumar, JNU, New Delhi
  271. Dr. Nirmala Biluka, Artist/ Assistant Professor, Hyderabad
  272. Yugashri S A, Art, Bengaluru
  273. Kaushal Sapre, Artist, Researcher, New Delhi
  274. Surycaroline, , MARSEILLE
  275. Rudy Loewe, Rudy Loewe, London
  276. Raisa Kabir, Artist, London
  277. Krishnapriya C P, Visual Artist, Chennai
  278. Pallavi Arora, Visual Arts, New Delhi
  279. Ishita Sharma, PhD student, Visual Cultures, Delhi/ London
  280. Abhinit Khanna, Independent Arts Manager, The Fort Art Center, Mumbai
  281. Ruchika, Advertising, New Delhi
  282. Annika, Academics, New Delhi
  283. Aditya Joshi, Student, New Dehi
  284. Rashmimala, Visual Artist, Vadodara
  285. Hrishitonoy Dutta, Visual Art, Delhi
  286. Phalguni Desai, Goethe-Institut Mumbai, Mumbai
  287. Siddharth Sarathi, pune
  288. Nishant, Actor, Delhi
  289. Ranjana Dave, Artist and Academic, New Delhi
  290. Ishita Biswas, Visual Art, Ghaziabad
  291. Asmita Rangari, Independent Curator/ Visual Arts’ Practitioner,
  292. Nancy Adajania, Cultural theorist and curator, Bombay
  293. Orijit Sen, Artist, Goa
  294. Chitra Ganesh, Visual artist, New York
  295. Ayisha Abraham, Freelance artist, Bangalore
  296. Atreyee Day, Art in Community, Kolkata
  297. Supriya,  folk arts & craft, Jaipur
  299. Ali Akbar Mehta, Museum of Impossible Forms, Helsinki/Mumbai
  300. sumedh rajendran, artist, new delhi
  301. Subhashini Ali,
  302. Deeptha Achar, Vadodara
  303. Kushal, Design, Delhi
  304. Shailesh Kumar, Birkbeck, University of London/Criminology, London
  305. saba hasan, artist, new delhi
  306. Vidyun Sabhaney, artist, Delhi
  307. Shoma Chatterji
  308. MA Baby
  309. Nayantara Sahgal
  310. KP Fabian
  311. Shruti Sarkar, Visual Practices, New Delhi
  312. Lokesh Khodke, Artist, New Delhi
  313. Shukla Sawant, Artist and Academic
  314. Sindhura D.M. Jois, Art Historian
  315. Adil Kalim, Artist, New Delhi