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Opposition accuses govt of ‘policing people’s thoughts’ over Palekar being interrupted at NGMA event

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New Delhi | Two days after Amol Palekar had to cut short his speech at an NGMA event in Mumbai for being critical of the Ministry of Culture, opposition parties on Sunday accused the NDA dispensation of “policing people’s thoughts”, even as the gallery’s chief refuted the veteran actor-director’s charge of artists’ advisory panels being scrapped.

A video available on social media purportedly showed Palekar criticising the ministry at the opening of an exhibition in memory of artist Prabhakar Barwe on February 8 for reportedly scrapping the advisory panels of the National Gallery of Modern Art’s (NGMA). While his speech remained incomplete due to interruptions, the full text has been circulating on social media for the last two days.

The veteran actor-director on Sunday said he was only trying to seek reasons behind the cancellation of retrospectives of two senior artists. Palekar told reporters in Pune that the artists’ advisory committee at NGMA, which is under the Ministry of Culture, had approved holding of retrospectives of three artists, of whom Prabhakar Barwe’s work was inaugurated.

“But I came to know that without any communication to the committee, the next two retrospectives have been cancelled by Mumbai NGMA’s new director Anita Rupavataram. I wanted to raise these issues. How and when these decisions were taken, we wanted to know,” he said.

Retrospective is an exhibition or compilation showing the development of an artist’s work over a period of time.

When contacted, NGMA Director-General Adwaita Gadanayak said the advisory committees of the gallery’s Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi centres have not been dissolved. “Their terms have ended recently and they are in the process of being reconstituted. For artists whose works were being showcased it was no less than a wedding. It is a big event in their lives. It was not the right platform for him (Palekar) to raise such issues,” he told PTI.

“The recommendations of previous advisory committee will be honoured and exhibitions of artists will happen as proposed. The new advisory committee will take a decision relating to future exhibitions,” Gadanayak said. Asked if any action will be taken against those who interrupted Palekar’s speech, he said, “We will do something.”

Hitting out at the NDA dispensation over the issue, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said this was the “acchhe din” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised and alleged that the government had “taken away the right of the common man to speak”.

“There are many things happening in this country which have never happened before. Amol Palekar was not allowed to speak. In cases where big people are accused, in those cases CBI does not appeal. Institutions like CBI and ED are being destroyed. “Anyone, who they feel, are against them, are slapped with NSA, sedition cases, served ED notices. I have never seen this kind of environment… we will all suffer the consequences,” he said.

His party colleague Abhishek Manu Singhvi, in a tweet, termed it an effort to silence dissent ? “Is India being redefined? Are institutional pillars of democracy trying to silent the dissent of people (sic)?” he wrote on the mircoblogging site.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav accused the government of trying to control thoughts and alleged that this was a sign of a nervous government. “Why does the BJP want to police people’s thoughts and opinions and control what they eat, wear, say and do? They want to make India monochrome and colourless. Telling Mr Palekar to stop speaking shows the nervousness of the government,” he tweeted.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, wrote on Twitter, “The whole essence of our democracy, our constitutional rights, is the freedom to criticise the government and its leaders. No one is above criticism. This behaviour with Amol Palekar is undemocratic and highly condemnable.”

Industrialist Anand Mahindra tweeted, “However inappropriate Palekar’s comments were for the occasion, he wasn’t a heckler, he was an invited speaker. The best way to prevent a controversy is for the Ministry of Culture to clarify that it welcomes constructive criticism and that Indian Culture celebrates free speech.”

At the opening of the exhibition “Inside The Empty Box” in Mumbai on Friday, Palekar had said, “Many of you may not know that this retrospective will be the last show decided by the advisory committee of local artists and not by some bureaucrat or an agent of the government with an agenda of either moral policing or proliferation of certain art commensurate with an ideological incline.”

At this point, an NGMA member on the stage interrupted, saying that Palekar should talk about the event. To this, Palekar responded, “I am going to talk about the same. Are you you applying censorship to that?”

He then said according his information, after the abolition of local artists’ committee, decisions as to whose work should be exhibited would be taken from Delhi by the Ministry of Culture.

Palekar was again interrupted by a woman, who said, “This is not needed at the moment, sorry…The function is about Prabhakar Barwe, please stick to that.”

Despite being asked to stop, Palekar went on to mention that writer Nayantara Sahgal was invited to speak at the Marathi literary convention recently but at the last minute the invitation was withdrawn because what she was going to say “was slightly critical of the situation around us”. “Are we creating the same situation here?” he had posed.

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Pulwama attack: Shiv Sena MLC wants boycott of tourism in Jammu and Kashmir

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Mumbai | Against the backdrop of the Pulwama terrorist attack that claimed lives of 40 CRPF personnel, a Shiv Sena MLC wants people from other parts of India to boycott tourism in Jammu and Kashmir for two years.

Sena legislator and spokesperson Manisha Kayande said boycotting tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, “where youth, women and children pelt stones on security forces”, would hurt the economic resources of the northern state. “The need of the hour is to counter the mentality of keeping the state on tenterhooks by targeting Indian jawans,” she said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Noting that Jammu and Kashmir is a beautiful state that attracts visitors from across the globe, Kayande said, “Tourism benefits the local people. If these resources earned are used against the country and the security forces, Indians should boycott tourism in the state for next two years.”

“Whenever there is an encounter between militants and security agencies, locals pelt stones on jawans to help militants get away,” she claimed. The Sena leader also demanded boycott of all Chinese goods, saying that country was supportive of Pakistan, which has been fomenting trouble in India.

China on Friday condemned the Pulwama terror attack carried out by a Jaish suicide bomber but declined to back India’s appeal to list the Pakistan-based terror group’s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN.

At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

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Rajinikanth and his party won’t contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls

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Chennai | Actor turned politician Rajinikanth has announced that he along with his party Rajni Makkal Mandram won’t be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

In an issued Press release Rajinikanth stated that his party Rajni Makkal Mandram (RMM) will not support any party and added that its focus will on next assembly elections. The Tamil actor also appealed to his supporters to that he wants them to vote for a party which will solve Tamil Nadu’s water issues.

Rajinikanth further mentioned that his photo or party symbol should strictly not be used for any propaganda. On 31 December 2017 Rajinikanth had announced his entry into politics with the intention to contest in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections in all 234 constituencies.

Out of the 2014 Lok Sabha election held on the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK won 37 seats while PMK and BJP managed to win 1 seat each. DMK and Congress failed to win even a single seat in Tamil Nadu.

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Lok Sabha polls: Mumbai Congress promises jobs, unemployment allowance

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Mumbai | The Mumbai Congress is set to roll out a campaign aimed at providing employment to youth in the megacity and a monthly allowance to unemployed people if the party is voted to power in the Lok Sabha polls.

The campaign, titled ‘Chalo Ward Abhiyaan’, taken up in view of the “rising unemployment in the country”, will commence from Monday, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam said in a statement. The city Congress unit has already started working on the plan and printed around six lakh forms, he said.

The Youth Congress workers will be visiting every house in all the Assembly segments in Mumbai to ensure that every youngster fills these forms, Nirupam said. “Those who fill the forms will be given allowance cards. If we are voted to power, the allowance card holders will be given preference in employment, or else they will provided unemployment allowance,” he said.

Nirupam said people between 18 and 40 years of age would be eligible for the unemployment allowance. The new Congress-led governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have already announced unemployment allowances of Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000 per month respectively, he noted.

Nirupam also said that unlike the ruling BJP, the Congress will “actually walk the talk”, if it is voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.

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