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Saffron fanatics target Goa centre over art exhibition

Devika Sequeira, Panaji, July 29, DHNS:

The Xavier Centre of Historical Research (XCHR), Goa, has become the latest target of venomous right-wing propaganda over an art exhibition by Sanskrit scholar and painter Jose Pereira.

 The Jesuit-run centre, which on Tuesday had withdrawn three paintings from Pereira’s exhibition “Ephiphanies of the Hindu Gods” following a complaint to the police by the obscure Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, has now temporarily suspended the exhibition after it received scores of threatening calls.

Delio Mendonca, who runs the Xavier Centre – a repository of rare history books and research material and home to the largest collection of Angelo Fonseca paintings – said he was distressed because it went beyond the realm of reason.

“Pereira’s work is based on original Sanskrit scriptures, and contrary to the claim that the images are against Indian culture, they actually embody the highest cultural ideals of Indian civilisation,” he told Deccan Herald.


The centre had pulled out three of Pereira’s paintings on the advice of the Goa police, but it strongly condemned the threats and disrespect shown to the internationally known scholar, said Mendonca.

Pereira, who till a few years ago taught theology and history of religions at Fordham University, New York, has produced 24 scholarly books. He is 80-years-old and his friend and exhibition curator Vivek Menezes is upset that his end-of-life trip has been marred by such an ugly incident.

Singling out Pereira’s nude interpretations of Krishna and Shiva, the Janajagruti claimed that the “Christian artist has drawn derogatory paintings of the Hindu deities.”
On Thursday, the organisation scaled up its demands saying the whole exhibition had to be scrapped altogether, though it had no explanation for what was “objectionable” about the rest of the paintings.

The right-wing group which came to notice after its attack on painter M F Hussain’s documentary at the IFFI has functioned as a foot-soldier of the ultra-right Sanatan Sanstha. Emboldened by the highly provocative articles in “Sanatan Prabhat” (Sanstha’s mouthpiece), a small band of fanatics has for the moment managed to hold sway.

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