Free speech being censored in different ways & forms: Amol Palekar

Amol Palekar's Speech Cut Off At Mumbai Event For Criticising Government

Amol Palekar is muzzled and walks off podium

I was speaking at NGMA and on the changes in the organisation's policy.

On February 8, Palekar was requested to stick to the topic when after praising the efforts that went into putting together the exhibit of Barwe's works for the first time since his death in 1995, he began to criticise the ministry of culture for reducing the gallery space at NGMA, Mumbai, substantially as well as for allegedly scrapping the advisory committees at the gallery's Mumbai and Bengaluru centres. Palekar could not deliver the full speech he had prepared. At this point, a gallery member on stage interrupted, saying that Amol Palekar should talk about the event. In the video, Palekar is seen speaking at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai. He said he would have rejected the invitation if any such message had been conveyed to him. "If they would have briefed me in advance I would have opted out of the event". I must state here that I spoke at length about Barve and also shared a few anecdotes before turning to the issues pertaining to the management of the NGMA. "If you don't want me to speak, I won't speak".

Explaining the way the events unfolded on the day, Palekar said, "The retrospective of Prabhakar Barwe opened at NGMA on Friday". Then Jesal tried to stop me and since it was she who invited me to the event, I respected her and stopped. According to a decision taken by the NGMA director general in November past year, only one-sixth of the gallery's total area, or the dome area, will be now available for external shows, the Mumbai Mirror reported.

He said it was a shock to him, and many other artistes. On Left Right and Centre, we ask who has the right to censor what Mr Palekar wanted to say. It added that recommendations of the previous advisory committees would be honoured and exhibitions of artists will be held as proposed earlier. "If I can not speak about these issues at the NGMA during a retrospective where else should I voice it?"

To which, Palekar responded, "I am going to talk about the same".

Palekar had described as "disastrous" the culture ministry's decision to disband the advisory committees of local artists at the NGMA's galleries in Mumbai and Bangalore and to assume control over these galleries. Their terms have ended recently and the committees are in the process of being reconstituted. "I also learned that Barwe's exhibition would be the last retrospective as a decision had been taken that of the five floors at the NGMA, only the fifth floor (the dome) would exhibit works of artists outside of NGMA". Regarding permanent collections, it is clarified that NGMA proposes to display its own collections (including artworks by great masters) initially over a two-year period. "Some artists have expressed their apprehensions about availability of less space for temporary exhibitions and retrospectives", it said.

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