Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #188 - Enslaved Art and the Cunning Deals

Art has always conveyed a society's conscience. The Nehruvian era created slaves out of artists with selective patronage and targeted persecution. Withdrawal effects are tough to handle.

(Photo by D. Lamar Hanri on Unsplash)

“No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” ― Rudyard Kipling


Artists represent the collective sentiment of a society.

When art is done by heart, then it not only transcends the banal and the gross, it makes life thrive.

When art is a prisoner to awards, money, power and mere survival, then it is no longer art.

It is a deal.

A cunning deal by someone trading a learned skill for gold coins. Such art can convey very little except the shiny ostentatiousness of performance.

Performance is not art.

When a homeless man high on substance in rejection of this world sits and breaks into the most amazing Heer, that conveys far more than the practiced “brilliance” of the greatest of singers.

Art is life. It is the feminine of our existence. Commerce and power is the masculine. Masculine is critical for survival. The feminine makes life, life!

The art stalwarts of the yore who have lived an entitled life may have at some point shared the promise of an art. They may still be showing extraordinary skills. But when they became enslaved to the selective doles of the state, there was no art left.

Between a man who wants to overpower the nature around him by interpreting it on his canvas and one who is content to just be the medium of the beauty around him to pour its infinite grace on the canvas with that momentary snapshot, knowing it is an approximation and not the real, there is a world of difference.

That difference is called Art.


GRATITUDE: Thank you so much, Reggie-ji, for a very generous contribution to Drishtikone. We are truly humbled. 🙏


Selective patronage and targeted persecution - Art and Politics

Guernica is one of the greatest works of Pablo Picasso.

It was created by him as a reaction to the German Army’s  (Nazi establishment) devastating bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.  It shows the tragedy that war is.  The suffering of people and society.

Some compare its prominence to Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

As Leonardo da Vinci evoked a Renaissance ideal of serenity and self-control, Guernica should be seen as Picasso's comment on what art can actually contribute towards the self-assertion that liberates every human being and protects the individual against overwhelming forces such as political crime, war, and death.(Source)

Art has always been the voice of the sensitive in society against that which was crude and destructive.  In that sense, artists have flirted with the political.

During the Emergency, for example, MF Husain painted Indira Gandhi as Goddess Durga riding a lion to suck up to the establishment at that time, lest he was persecuted like others.

He even named the painting “June 26”, the date when the emergency began.


A polity and society that was built to keep the artists “in check” and not go out of line with the contemporary politics of Nehru and Indira (and overall Congress diktats) had learned to patronize the artists to gain their silence.  Silence in the face of atrocities, riots, Kashmiri genocide, and pushing the society into almost perennial poverty.

However, that same habit of silence was suddenly an issue with the left, when the Congress disposition started losing their grip on the Indian narrative.  Then such leftist trolls that create the mischievous distinctive ‘shiny object’ called Hindutva to abuse Hinduism started chiding the same quietism.

In the last decade, especially, as the demands of the political have become pressingly urgent, it has become clear that the artists of the white cube and the black box are inadequate to the task of formulating positions that engage the public sphere.  As such, quietism, rather than activism, has been the leitmotif of Indian art; and the activism that some artists in India have displayed relies on outmoded strategies of protest, weak in the face of the ideological and technological challenge of a Hindu Right that is at home in the world of global communication and urban warfare.(Source)

For such bigoted commentators, the ills of Indian society meriting dissent started only when BJP started winning elections.  Before that, nothing worthy of dissent ever happened.

The quietism of the artists was a relic that had to give way to activism.

Indian artists were pummeled into quietude during the Nehruvian era.  Majrooh Sultanpuri’s example is the most instructive one.

Majrooh was married to Firdaus on May 5, 1948. So his family expanded, and expenses were going to increase. Yet, instead of getting to work, the poet went to jail. The reason? A workers’ agitation was on in Bombay in those days. In one such labour rally, Majrooh recited a poem and called Jawaharlal Nehru ‘a slave of the Commonwealth’ and ‘a Hitler’.

Aman kaa jhandaa is dharti pe
kisney kahaa lahraane na paae
ye bhii koii Hitler kaa hai chelaa,
maar le saathii, jaane na paae!
Commonwealth ka daas hai Nehru
maar le saathii jaane na paae!
(Such unease with our flag of peace! Is it some protégé of Hitler, or a mere slave of the Commonwealth? It’s Nehru, my friends. Take him by the collar lest he gets away.)

An arrest warrant was issued for Majrooh by the government of Bombay State. Majrooh went underground and eluded the police. But when a meeting of progressive writers was organised in 1951 to protest the incarceration of fellow communist writers Sajjad Zaheer and Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi conspiracy case, the fiery poet came out of hiding. His was a strong voice in the meeting, and he was arrested as soon as he descended from the stage. Majrooh was lodged in Bombay’s Arthur Road Jail for a year. (Source)

Also, beautiful songs of the movie, Phir Subah Hogi - Aasmaañ pe hai khuda aur zameeñ pe hum and Cheen-o Arab hamaara, Hindostaañ hamaara were banned by the government.

Hindi poet Kedar Nath Singh was persecuted by Nehru as well.

Eminent critic and Hindi poet Kedar Nath Singh was prosecuted over a speech in which he had criticised the Congress party. He was charged with sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which calls for life imprisonment for bringing “hatred or contempt…to excite disaffection towards the Government”. (Source)

The idea was simple. As long as you do not criticize the government or its policies, you can practice your art. The moment you speak up, you will be targeted.

So the Indian government-run by Nehru/Gandhi dynasts via Congress Party also ensured that those who fell in line were given state patronage. Some became the ‘lucky few', while others languished. It was a mechanism of the ruling by creating anticipation for elitism.

Recently, it was found that many ‘distinguished’ artists - dancers, singers, etc - have been “overstaying in the government accommodation, in some cases for more than 30 years, paying a nominal licence fee against the limit of stay for six years. These accommodations are in posh colonies, including Lodhi Colony, Asian Games Village, Shahajan Road, Kaka Nagar, Gulmohar Park, Pandara Road, and R K Puram.” (Source)

The names of those overstaying in the most sought after real estate in India include the whos who of Indian art.

Pandit Birju Maharaj, Jatin Das, Guru Jayarama Rao, Bharati Shivaji, Dr Sunil Kothari, Kamalini Asthana, Kanaka Srinivasan and Wasifuddin Dagar.

Selective patronage of some artists and targeted persecution of those who criticized cemented the overwhelming stronghold of the government system run by the Congress Party since independence.

The suppliant media of the past masters that has found no patronage for its elitism in the new era, keeps playing its part like an obedient slave. That is why an action in consonance with the laws - eviction for overstaying elites - becomes a headline where the journalist purports as if one artist is being targeted and that there is ‘no place’ for the art in new India.

The truth, however, is very different.

Pakistan and Chinese preparing ground for attack in India?

The Chinese and the Pakistanis are doubling down on deep infiltration and attack on India. In August, the Enforcement Directorate had registered a case against the Chinese nation for money laundering.  He was running a hawala racket worth Rs 1000 crore.

The kingpin, a 42-year-old Charlie Peng, alias Luo Sang, was charged under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Peng had settled in Manipur while marrying a woman there.  He later moved to Delhi to spy on key Tibetan refugees and people close to Dalai Lama in India.

Peng created a network of fake/sham companies to hood-wink Indian authorities. (Source)

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has now said that upon further investigation that Peng had created a "web of sham companies to launder hawala funds to and from China"

Just this week, the Indian Army found a 150 meter long underground tunnel on the international border at Regal area in J&K`s Samba district that was being used by terrorists to come over to India from Pakistan.

It is said that this tunnel may have been used to sneak the perpetrators of a major attack in Jammu.

It is suspected that the four Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists who were killed in an Army operation on Thursday may have used this tunnel to sneak into the country from Pakistan (Source)

Last week, the Indian security forces gunned down four terrorists in an encounter near Ban toll plaza in Jammu's Nagrota district. These terrorists had planned a major attack.

The security forces recovered a huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosive material, including 11 AK rifles, 3 pistols, 29 grenades and 6 UBGL grenades, from the terrorists. (Source)

Fortunately, all four terrorists were killed in an over three-hour long operation during which the truck, in which they were hiding, also caught fire.

The details emerging from the investigations reveal that the terrorists were trained by the Pakistani commandoes and were given complete backup from the other side of the border.

Detailed investigation into the November 19 Nagrota encounter, in which four terrorists were gunned down, have revealed the involvement of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operational commander Kasim Jan, the principal accused in the 2016 Pathankot air base attack. Jan is one of the main launch commanders of Jaish terrorists into India and has links with underground workers all over South Kashmir. He reports directly to Mufti Rauf Asghar, the de-facto chief of the UN designated global terrorist group. (Source)

As winter approaches in full swing, the terrorists have been waiting on the other side for a major infiltration and attack operation.

“Nearly 200 terrorists of mixed tanzeems are waiting at launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) to infiltrate into India. We are picking up revival of Al-Badr group as well as creation of another terror front Lashkar-e-Mustafa, headed by one Hidyatullah Malik, and other Pakistani based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group training another 23 terrorists at Jangal-Mangal camp in Khyber-Paktunkhwa,” said another security official. (Source)

Remember this was also the area where the terrorists had attacked in 2018 as well. In July 2018, heavily armed terrorists had tried to enter the family quarters disguised in police uniform in the army area near the 16 Corps HQ. At that time 7 soldiers were martyred and 3 terrorists were gunned down. (Source)

India has taken this attack very seriously and is moving ahead to seek retribution. The major world powers have been apprised of it and the fact that India is under pressure to strike back.

India has launched a fresh offensive against terror-sponsor Pakistan following the Nagrota encounter in Jammu and Kashmir. India has told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) permanent members that it feels pressure to strike back at Pakistan, as it continues to support terrorist activities. (Source)

Meanwhile, Pakistan - in anticipation of its attack being successful - had ratcheted up the pressure (as per their own estimation) on India. So, the perennial joker, Minister of Forein Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi unleashed a comedy sequence on the unwitting press corps in Pakistan.

We may be looking at a major escalation with Pakistan by India very soon. Some quick and fearful meetings are bein held in Pakistan and the grapevine strategies being by India suggest an escalation.

We will keep looking at the events that unfold keenly.

market corner - 10 quick bytes

  1. Nifty crosses the 13,000 mark as all benchmarks hit all-time high records - more

  2. Cars24 gets $200 million funding - is India’s latest unicorn - more

  3. Mumbai-based travel firm launches covid vaccine tourism package for HNW individuals who want to travel to the US for a shot - more

  4. Serum Institute to focus on supplying COVID-19 vaccine to India first - more

  5. Karvy Stock Broking expelled from membership as NSE declares it as a defaulter - more

  6. Bitcoin hits $19,000 for first time in three years, an all-time high in sight - more

  7. Salary of high-skilled gig workers, independent consultants returning to normal - more

  8. Four labor codes - the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Code on Social Security, 2020 and the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2020 and Code of Wages, 2020 have merged 44 pre-existing labor laws - more

  9. Modi tells CMs that their States must ramp up their cold storage system for COVID vaccine - more

  10. Indian govt bans AliExpress, 42 other Chinese apps - more

nota bene

40 lakh new Atal Pension subscribers this fiscal: More than 40 lakh new subscribers have been enrolled under Atal Pension Yojana (APY) till November 13 in the current fiscal, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) said in a statement on Tuesday. (Source)

Consolidation of the un-intelligence: Pakistan's government has decided to bring both military and civilian intelligence agencies under one umbrella to be headed by the chief of ISI, in what is being seen as one more step towards increasing the military’s control over key institutions in the country. (Source)

Grooming Flip-flop?: In an unprecedented decision on November 11, the Allahabad High Court has deemed a previous law as ‘bad’ which stated that religious conversion just for the sake of marriage was prohibited and such marriages had no sanctity in law. he two-Judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court in the current case of Priyanka and Salamat Ansari stated, "None of these judgments dealt with the issue of life and liberty of two matured individuals in choosing a partner or their right to freedom of choice as to with whom they would like to live...We hold the judgments in Noor Jahan and Priyanshi as not laying good law." (Source)

COVID Lockdown $6 mn/person: Researchers from HEC Paris business school and Bocconi University in Milan have reached a sobering calculation: the closures beginning at the pandemic's onset in March through May saved 29,000 lives -- at a cost of $169 billion, or around $6 million per person. (Source)

Millions in the US may lose homes: About 5.8 million adults say they are somewhat to very likely to face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to a survey completed Nov. 9 by the U.S. Census Bureau. That accounts for a third of the 17.8 million adults in households that are behind on rent or mortgage payments. (Source)

when the jury failed America

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was a landmark movie from Hollywood. Gregory Peck won an Oscar® for his brilliant performance as Atticus Finch, the Southern lawyer, who defends a black man accused of rape. The movie brilliantly captured the time, the mood and mindsets of that era. Though the young man was innocent, the outcome of the jury was a foregone conclusion. This one statement marks the struggles that America has faced in its work to absolve itself of the crime of slavery.

"Now, gentlemen, in this country our courts are the great levelers. In our courts, all men are created equal. I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and of our jury system. That's no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality!"

Watch this performance by Gregory Peck as he delivers the closing argument in the case. There was a time when the movies did represent a sane and believable world.

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