Artists in Chennai are unhappy that Loyola College has apologised for display of satirical paintings on contemporary issues on campus.
On Monday, the Catholic minority institution now at the centre of a controversy over art works put up by a cultural group not from the college had apologised after right wing Hindu groups alleged that some of the paintings hurt Hindu sentiments.
"We acknowledge our lapse and apologise for insurmountable hurt. The venue for a cultural event was misused. We've immediately removed the exhibits. We are pained our pluralistic campus was used for derogative exhibits. We do not advocate anything tantamount to peace and tranquility of society," the college said in a statement.
Cartoonist Bala, who was arrested in 2017 for a caricature of chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam, says stifling freedom of expression has become the norm in Tamil Nadu.
"The college should not have apologised. It was not their work in the first place. I find nothing wrong with those paintings. It's an expression of a cartoonist's view. Whether the idea is right or wrong an artist should have the right to express," he said.
Recently, Lois Sophia, a woman researcher was arrested for criticising the state BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan.
The ruling AIADMK had also banned Kamal Haasan's certified film Vishwaroopam till legal intervention.
Similarly, Actor Vijay's films Mersel and Sarkar too faced heat from BJP and AIADMK for taking on Centre's GST and state's freebies.
Among the paintings found to be offensive by the right wing Hindu groups is one that shows Bharat Mata as a sexual harassment victim in the context of #MeToo. Some other paintings target the BJP and the Prime Minister on the Rafale fighter jet deal besides taking on the RSS for denying entry of women of menstrual age at Sabarimala temple. One painting shows a menstruating woman chained to a trident.
Narayanan Thirupathy, BJP Spokesperson, said, "It's a premeditated insult by the college against Hindu religion. It's not a contemporary issue. To use Bharat Mata with #MeToo, is freedom of expression?"
Call it satire on contemporary issues or deliberately hurting of sentiments, the state BJP has already made this a Christian vs Hindu issue. Many say the controversy yet again reflects the rising intolerance towards criticism in Tamil Nadu that even institutions nurturing critical thinking choose to not stand up to.