‘Plastic Cow’ Becomes an Issue of Intolerance
Background of the Incident
Last Saturday, two artists were detained by the police, after a controversy erupted regarding their plastic cow installation at the Third Summit of Jaipur Art Summit at the Jawahar Kala Kendra(JKK) in Jaipur.
Why was the artwork misinterpreted?
The cow had been suspended fifty feet high up in the air, with a noose hanging around its neck. The artists, Anish Ahluwalia and Chintan Upadhyaya said that the dummy cow was positioned in such a manner to convey the harmful effects on animals due to plastic consumption. However, it was misinterpreted as an ‘insult to the cow’ and within half an hour of installing the model, a few right wing organizations and animal rights groups came to the scene, forcing the organizers to dismantle the work. Later the two artists were dragged to the police station, for allegedly hurting ‘religious sentiments’. However, the station house officer (SHO) of the police station where the artists were detained said that they were only questioned and told to remove their work, for the fear of creating controversy.
While the policemen who arrested the artists have been transferred and the Rajasthan Chief Minister has personally rendered an apology to them, this is not the first time that a controversy has erupted regarding the cow. Earlier in Maharashtra, beef had been banned during the Jain festival of Paryushan, followed by this ban being imposed in other states as well. Then the Dadri lynching incident took place in September, where a Muslim man was murdered for allegedly storing and consuming beef in his house.
Is our freedom of opinion being curbed?
Such incidents indicate that our fundamental right, the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, is under threat. People who go against the government or do something different, are either arrested or murdered, for example, MM Kalburgi. And while the cow has become a holy symbol, our ancient texts talked about the slaughtering of such animals. Then why are we making a fuss about it today? The artists were not even showing any kind of butchering or slaughter, they were just trying to convey the hazards of plastic consumption on animals, where cow was used as a symbol. However, since the right wing organizations have begun worshiping the ‘gau-mata’ and treating it as a holy animal, they were totally against this installation and the artists were forced to spend a night in the jail, for no fault of theirs.
What will be the consequences?
If incidents of suppressing the voices of the public continues, there will come a time when people won’t say anything for the fear of getting killed or arrested. While the BJP government argues that intolerance has decreased, that does not seem to be the case. On the other hand, such cases are being reported on a daily basis. Raids are taking place at meat shops and slaughterhouses to make sure that cows are not being killed, and people engaging in the trade of beef, are either shot down or arrested. And it is not just groups like RSS who are involved in this process, many a times the police also detains people for allegedly consuming or selling beef.
The only way such incidents can be curbed are when the influence of radical elements, such as the right wing organizations, decreases. They should not interfere in the fields of literature, art and the like, as they are the only medium by which we ordinary citizens, can express our voices.[Image Attribute: Kain Road Cul de Sac via Flickr.com]