Artists At It: A Mix of Protests and Sarcasm at Jamia

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NO to CAA/NRC: Artists from different institutions gathered on the spot and painted their feelings on one side of the Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Marg, near Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. — Photos: Caravan Daily

Mohd. Aasif | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — A picture, it is said, is equivalent to a thousand words. The event in Jamia on January 2, organised by artists on Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Road, has proven this dictum. This road has won a new identity now. The road that registers the protest against the discriminatory CAA and NRC offensives by the Modi government. It’s been more than a fortnight that students and residents of Jamia have been gathering at Gate no 7 of this institution.

Everyone is voicing his or her mind through various ways. Students of Jamia and other universities have responded the Artist’s Call for Protest — an initiative of former students of Jamia. They called artists from different institutions for floor-painting. “Everyone is not educated. No one knows all the languages but pictures attract people and they can understand the message hidden in a picture,” said Ashish, one of the organisers of the event.

Artists gathered on the spot and painted their feelings on one side of the Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Marg. Students, teachers and parents participated in the event. Rimsha Rehman with his brother Mudassir, student of 9th & 6th Standard respectively, came to  join the event and registered their protest. Rimsha’s mother was asked why her daughter joined the protest. She said, “Kids are also citizens, so they should also raise their voice.”

Protesters are energized more as they watch the artists at work. One of the paintings depicts gauntlet of Thanos in Modi’s hand; and beneath that ‘PEACE’ is disappearing. “Modi ji wants to do good the way Thanos did,” said a BFA student Alisha.

Artists have given the idea that a protest can be peaceful, colourful and sarcastic at the same time. A slogan or a speech could be momentary but a picture is imprinted in the back of one’s head. People will keep in mind for long the memory of this ‘day out with artists’.

Many of the artists have come to this place for the first time. Their experience is fresh and real. Some of them have learnt new things. Their seniors guided them. “It’s our first time. We did not know how to blend colours for ground painting. It’s a new experience and we are having a go at the new techniques,” said Isra, a BFA student of Jamia.

A team of four from Rohtak painted a simple image of a body lying on the floor. They inscribed a poem of Sahir Ludhiyanvi. “We are basically theatre artistes, not professional painters. We joined the event to promote a cause,” said Ankit and Akshay.

The backside of the JCC dais turned out to be another venue for the public’s visit. The first line was written, Jiyo aur jeene do (live and let live) and further on, the paintings start. The area in between Gate 4 and 7 was their arena. There are larger-than-life pictures painted by teams of 4-5 painters. The artists have painted almost 20 pictures.

The visit to this side of Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Marg, and a look at the paintings, will give one an idea how the Constitution of India, Idea of Secularism, and Idea of India are being tormented. Painters simply pour out their feelings in their paintings.

Painters might have different ways to express their emotions but they have a single objective. They want to question the acts of the BJP government. Some of the painters have adopted similar ways to put their views across. Aeman Naqvi painted a skull biting a book which symbolised library, Constitution, the education system etc. It has no face but it has a design of lotus on the forehead. “A devil has no face,” says Aeman when asked why she did not use the faces of Modi-Shah, like others did.

“You can’t impose 144 everywhere,” was inscribed on the picture of Anshuka; and a faceless king is silencing a student. She explained why the king is faceless, “Because he is not alone. He is backed by hundreds of other powerful individuals.”

A Journalist from ‘The Wire’ joined the cause. He painted Modi’s portrait and inscribed ‘raja tor kapod kothai’ in Bengali; meaning, ‘Hey King! Why are you naked?’ “I got the idea of this picture from a poem of Bengali poet Nirendranath Chakraborty. I used Bengali script because our Constitution celebrates diversity and I wanted to contradict the slogan of Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan,” said Pariplab.

“Clothes here is metaphor to an expected behaviour, to which leaders take the liberty,” he added. Ghazala shares the same view. She depicts her view, through brush, that ‘the government enjoys the Idea of India but does not want others to feel the same’. “We put a question mark on ‘Vasudheiv Kutumbkam’ because we want to ask them, if they still (after CAA) believe in the Idea,” Ghazala explains.

Quoting Bertold Brecht, Pariplab pointed out that in these dark days, the songs of darkness are sung. He calls upon “People from privileged background” to raise their voice; if not, the society’s future is doomed.”

Each painting tells the story of the Modi and Shah team’s rule. It gives an Idea as to why and for what the people are protesting about. The event is not just about protesting against the controversial laws but also about why someone should speak out now. Painters have involved some of the boys roaming in the vicinity too, because they are on winter vacation.

Walking down the Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar road gives one a glimpse of the six- year journey of the BJP dispensation. The politics over cow. “The government has been doing cow politics. The ministers say children are not more important than cow,” says Adil, JMI BFA student, explaining the geometric form of art.

Roaming around, one finds that the painters made us feel like taking a walk through the timeline. It takes you to demonetization. In place of Gyarah Moorti, Dinu along with his team painted some followers with saffron blind folds on their eyes following a man with lotus in his hand. He said, “It is a sarcastic design for a new hundred rupees note.”

The entire event was funded by the locals of Jamia. The organisers said there was no political support to this event. Rather, they are working on their independent spirit. Painters gathered at the spot in the morning and remained there even after sunset. They varnished all the artworks.

The Home minister and the prime minister were the centre of most works. Everyone tries to remind us of what happened on December 15 at the Jamia campus. Amit Shah is depicted as the driver of a JCB demolishing the Constitution. “We have named the machine CAA and the handprints are of the students of Jamia,” said Zaki, leader of the team.

It could be seen that the students did not forget the heroes of the movement. A picture depicts Chandrashekhar Ravan, Ladeeda, Aayesha and Minaj. Isra says that they are their heroes because they have continued their struggle. It was a heart-touching moment. Some of the artists got attached to their works. “We know that our work will fade away once the road is open for traffic. But I believe it will be imprinted on the minds of others,” said Isra.

One cannot imagine that this is the same road that was the scene of chaos on  December 15. In place of stones, smoke bomb shells, barricades and broken helmets, it transformed into an art gallery. Passersby started taking photos and selfies with their pictures.

Sumita Hazarika and Rageshree, among them, think secular India is fighting back in an innovative way. While talking about floor painting, Anu, a passerby, says, “This is amazing. They should carry on with their creative work.” She further says, “This will be a mark of what happened in Jamia, and every year students will get to know about it.”

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