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Assam To Dismantle Mahatma Gandhi's 'Distorted' Statue In Guwahati, Faces Criticism

Ramkinkar Baij started making the statue with concrete in 1968 for the Assam government, but left the work to be completed by his assistants.

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Assam To Dismantle Mahatma Gandhi's 'Distorted' Statue In Guwahati, Faces Criticism
YouTube/Abhijit Kumar Misra
Assam To Dismantle Mahatma Gandhi's 'Distorted' Statue In Guwahati, Faces Criticism
outlookindia.com
2017-08-09T17:51:51+05:30
A statue of Mahatma Gandhi created by one of India’s finest sculptors Ramkinkar Baij installed in Guwahati will soon be replaced by another one, as, according to officials in Assam, it presents a “distorted image”.
According to a report by The Indian Express, Baij, who died in 1980 at the age of 74, started making the statue with concrete in 1968 for the Assam government, but left the work to be completed by his assistants. The statue was unveiled by then chief minister Bishnu Ram Medhi on October 2, 1970, inside the Gandhi Mandap garden atop the Sarania Hill in Guwahati.
The decision to remove Mahatma Gandhi's statue was taken at a meeting chaired by deputy commissioner M Angamuthu on Monday for development of the Gandhi Mondop under Guwahati Smart City project and for eviction of encroachers on its Sarania Hill, according to a district administration press release.
“Look at the statue. Look at the disproportionate hands and feet. They do not resemble those of the Mahatma in any manner. His face is distorted, as also the pair of glasses. That is why we have decided to dismantle it and place a new statue there,” BJP MLA from Guwahati (East), Siddhartha Bhattacharyya, who attended the meeting, told The Indian Express.
Described the move as “most unfortunate”, professor Swapan Dutta, acting vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, told newspaper: “Ramkinkar Baij is one of the most important artists in contemporary Indian art. I will go as far as to say that there can never be another Ramkinkar. There are sculptures he has made, which we have at Visva-Bharati, of Sujata and Gautam Buddha. These sculptures do not look like Sujata or Gautam Buddha — and that’s the point, it is an interpretation, it is art.”
"The 47-year old statue has been made by an unparallel sculptor like Ramkinkar Baij. The bronze statue is a pride of Assam and we are fortunate to have it in our state", Manik Bora, president of the Heritage Conservation Society of Assam told PTI.
"Removal of the statue will be criminal and unfortunate. We strongly condemn the move of the administration to remove the statue and we will protest against it", said the noted art critic and film maker.
"If a hammer is lifted to dismantle the statue, we the artists and all like minded people will put our head under it. The government has not realised the value of the statue... the west will pay crores of Dollars to possess this statue", Bora asserted.
Assam Freedom Fighters Association president Jatin Goswami also opposing the move said, "the statue is an honour to the state. We will not allow the government to remove the Mahatma's statue".
"We don't approve the move of the government and we will submit a memorandum to the administration to withdraw its decision to keep the statue in its original place", Goswami said.
A spokesperson from the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust Assam Branch, located at the foothill of Sarania Hill where the Gandhi Mondop is, said "it is not a good move...It cannot be allowed. We have sent for the detailed papers on the administration's decision".
"The statue was erected during the time of Congress government headed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Now the BJP-led government wants to remove all statues put up by Congress", the spokesman claimed.
Kishore Das, general secretary of the prominent Artists Guild of Guwahati and president of All Assam Visual Artists Association said, "It is a matter of pride for Assam that we have Ramkinkar Baij's creation in our state. We all artists unanimously oppose and protest against the move".
Renuka Devi Borkataki, former union education and culture minister told PTI: "I am not aware of who made the statue. As the statue does not depict Gandhi accurately with his limbs being disproportionately long with a muscular body, the move has been made to replace it with a more realistic statue of the Mahatma".
Borkotaki who is a member of the Gandhi Mandap Trust also said that Guwahati East BJP MLA Sidhartha Bhattacharya present at the meeting had said there that there is no official record of the statue being made by the eminent artist Ramkinkar Baij.
When contacted the Deputy Commissioner said "we will discuss with senior citizens before we take a final decision on the removal of the statue."
Guwahati mayor Mrigen Sarania said the move to remove the statue was because "its condition is bad with the Mahatma's spectacles and its body parts broken".
When pointed out that repairs could be made for restoring the statue as is done for historical monuments and artworks across the globe to maintain heritage treasures, Sarania replied, "that will show disrespect to the original creator". 
 
(With PTI inputs)
 
“Look at the statue. Look at the disproportionate hands and feet. They do not resemble those of the Mahatma in any manner. His face is distorted, as also the pair of glasses. That is why we have decided to dismantle it and place a new statue there,” BJP MLA from Guwahati (East), Siddhartha Bhattacharyya, who attended the meeting, told The Indian Express.
 
Described the move as “most unfortunate”, professor Swapan Dutta, acting vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, told newspaper: “Ramkinkar Baij is one of the most important artists in contemporary Indian art. I will go as far as to say that there can never be another Ramkinkar. There are sculptures he has made, which we have at Visva-Bharati, of Sujata and Gautam Buddha. These sculptures do not look like Sujata or Gautam Buddha — and that’s the point, it is an interpretation, it is art.” 
 
Ramkinkar's last notable work, Mill Call (1956), a creation adorning the Visva-Bharati campus in Santiniketan, is perhaps the last sculpture he created independently.
 
At Visva-Bharati, from where he completed his diploma in fine arts, his artistic skills and intellectual horizons acquired new depth and complexity. Soon after completing his studies at Kala Bhavana at Visva-Bharati, he became a member of its faculty and played a decisive role in making the university the most important centre for modern art in pre-Independent India.

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