Artists who made a mural featuring jailed peasant leader Akhil Gogoi in Guwahati on Thursday said police “made them erase it”. Police, however, maintained that the artists were merely “advised” against defacing public property.
Gogoi is in jail after he was booked by the NIA on charges of sedition and under provisions of the UA(P)A for his involvement in the anti-CAA movement. The painting — made by members of Anga Art Collective, a Guwahati-based artists’ group founded in 2010 — featured Gogoi at the centre, his arm raised, and surrounded by policemen.
M P Gupta, Commissioner of Police, Guwahati, told The Indian Express, “No artist was detained today by police. Drawing on public property without any permission is not allowed. We advised the artists against damaging public property. We have not cleaned the painting — the artists must have realised their mistake after our advice and then, removed it themselves.”
“We painted through yesterday, no one said anything to us,” said Dhrubajit Sarma, part of the 14-membered Collective and among the four questioned by the police. “Just as we were putting the finishing touches this morning, the police arrived.”
Sarma, visiting Assistant Professor, College of Art, Delhi, said they were questioned at the Basistha police station. “We were told that we couldn’t paint on a public wall without permission. We were shocked. We have painted on walls before too, but never has something like this happened.”
According to Sarma, the artists were later brought back to the spot and asked to paint over the mural. “So four of us covered it up with white paint. That made us feel really bad,” he said.
Said Sarma, “For us, Akhil Gogoi is a symbol of resistance. On the news, we have been seeing photos of him surrounded by cops, so as artists we decided to replicate that. It was just a form of creative expression. Neither did we hold up traffic, nor were we creating a public nuisance. We were just making art.”
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