A gay artist was attacked and a painting destroyed at his exhibition in New Delhi last week.
Reports suggest that the attack on gay artist Balbir Krishan, which took place at state-run gallery Lalit Kala Akademi, was motivated by homophobia, although the attacker has not been identified.
Telhelka TV uploaded a video of the incident, which shows a masked attacker calmly approach the artist as he talks about his work, smashing a painting and then hitting Krishan on the head with a blunt object.
This incident has been linked to Hindu fundamentalist groups, as Krishan said the attacked shouted: “We taught a good lesson to [artist] M.F. Husain too. If you don’t stop, you’ll get the same dose.”
The artist, M.F. Husain was widely celebrated, but left India in 2006 amidst court cases and controversy surrounding his work which depicted Hindu deities as nudes. He lived in London in self-exile, until his death last year.
Despite the suggestion of the involvement of Hindu fundamentalist groups, none have come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.
Krishan, whose works have been deemed controversial due to their homoerotic nature, also said that he received anonymous telephone calls, and that one caller said: “You are determined to ruin Hinduism.”
Former chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi, Ashok Vajpeyi, told The Sunday Guardian, New Delhi,: “This is a violation of an artist’s freedom of expression. Every person, including the attacker, is entitled to their own opinion. But to physically harm [someone] to [get them to] accept your point of view is downright wrong.”
The artist, who lost both of his legs in a train accident fifteen years ago, had dedicated the show to Bhupen Khakhar, one of India’s best known gay artists.
Similarly, Khakhar explored sexuality in a way which referenced Hindu scriptures.
This attack mirrors that of Susan Burns, 53, of Virginia, who, in 2011, attacked a Paul Gauguin painting in Washington DC’s National Gallery claiming she did it because it is “very homosexual”. She pounded the painting titled Two Tahitian Women and tried to pull it from the gallery wall, court records say.
Krishan’s exhibition transferred to a private gallery after the attack, and the show closed without disruption.
A report has been filed with the police, but the attacker still has not been identified.