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Artists and cultural activists today condemned a decision of the Guwahati administration to remove an iconic statue of Mahatma Gandhi, created under the guidance of sculptor Ramkinkar Baij, as an act of "vandalism" and urged artistes to voice their "dissent". The activists said the decision reflected the "dangerous ignorance" of the present government, which, they alleged, had "no understanding of contemporary cultural values, none of any kind of aesthetic criteria". "Artists and the creative community are aghast at the vandalism proposed against the artwork of one of India's greatest artists by a representative of the BJP government in Guwahati," they said in a statement The RSS-BJP's representatives, being in power, can "now hold forth on the formal qualities of an artwork -- in this case by a master artist. And decide to demolish what they cannot comprehend," artists Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Vivan Sundaram, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh and Mithu Sen, art historian Geeta Kapur, critic Sunil Kothari and others said in the joint statement here. The Kamrup district administration in Assam is reportedly considering the removal of the statue, which it believes needs repair.
Guwahati Mayor Mrigen Sarania said on Wednesday that its condition was "bad with the Mahatma's spectacles and its body parts broken". The move on the Gandhi statue, the statement said, was "like much else that is happening in India's civil and political society; like taking over of cultural and academic institutions". They said India's creative community had, till now, not submitted to such an "appalling and dangerous" tendency. "We can together shame the communal and rightwing ideology of this government; together we can prevent them winning any of their vulgar victories. Artists Dissent," they said in the statement. The decision to remove the statue was taken at a meeting chaired by Deputy Commissioner M Angamuthu on Monday for the development of the Gandhi Mondop under the Guwahati Smart City project, a district administration press release said.
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