(One of the most revered symbols in India....will it be the same?)
When two Indian artists meet, now on wards, they should be asking each other which category they belong, O,P or W? For the beginners, this is the new way of categorizing India’s artists (that includes fine artists, writers, dancers and so on with their contemporary and folk categories) by the Cultural Ministry headed by Mr.Mahesh Sharma. According to this, the artists from all over India could make an online application to the cultural ministry, a committee comprised of bureaucrats would judge them and put them into different categories, O,P and W. And this will be a benchmark for the selection of the artists to represent India in the major cultural festivals conducted or sponsored by the government of India, in abroad as well as in India. Now, for the anxious ones, the alphabets O,P and W stand for ‘Outstanding’, ‘Promising’ and ‘Waiting’.
The justification for this move is simple: most of the artists who are representing India abroad on the cultural platforms are not up to the mark. With this cultural ministry’s certification, ‘the right kind’ of artists would travel and represent India, making the true gold of Indian democracy shine phenomenally in the foreign shores. Nepotism, which has been rampant in the government sponsorships (for the artists, dancers, musicians, writers etc.) is one of the reasons cited for this move by the cultural ministry. Apparently, the move and the reasons behind it sound too good and ideal but a deeper look simply reveals the nefarious agenda. All of us know that the artists who get to exhibit abroad or travel and perform in the international platforms generally are hand in glove with different authorities who sanction these trips. Many ‘artists’ (of different genres) travel quite regularly and showcase their talents abroad. Though there have been private complaints, sort of gossiping, bickering and salacious understatements pertaining to gender and sex, none with some sense of public dignity does bother to make these complaints obvious for the nepotism in such avenues are by now taken for granted.
(How to apply for creative permit)
However, fighting nepotism cannot result into the creation of a much more organized and fortified structure of favours, which would eventually shame the license-quota raj prevalent in Indira Gandhi’s time and has been percolating in various forms till date. The move of the present cultural ministry to certify or categorise the creative people of this country as ‘Outstanding’, ‘Promising’ and ‘Waiting’ is in fact is never a suitable way to do away with such favouritism and nepotism in the cultural field. On the contrary, this move would bring back the licence quota raj in its fiercest forms and would divide the creative community along ideologies. True, that artists in any country, as they too are citizens of these countries, have their ideologies, often expressed covertly and at times overtly. Only the changes in socio-political climates make them come out with their ideologies. Such times of crisis and conflicts bring out the true nature of the artists and intellectuals. It has recently happened in India with the large number of the members of artistic and intellectual communities coming out in hoards against the right wing ideas of the present political regime at the centre.
An analysis of the move of the government to create three categories of artists is in fact a sort of census or stock taking of the ideological partners of the government from amongst the creative communities of the country which is going through the terrible times both in politics and social engineering in terms of handling sensitive issues of political inclusion and exclusion of states within the confederacy of Indian republic. The Cultural Ministry says that the artists in this country could apply online CCRT website and simply fill in their applications to be assessed by a group of bureaucrats who would eventually put the creative people in different baskets. The ministry claims that it has already processed 185 applications and out of that 112 are in the P (promising category)m 46 got O (Outstanding) and 27 are put in the W (waiting category). Those who are in the O and P categories are eligible to ‘represent’ India abroad. The 27 waiting in wings should do that till the bureaucrats take their applications up for review. How? We could see that against a renewal application. The ministry says that it is ready to process another one crore applications which have already come in. It is going to be real creation of mediocrity, for sure.
(Culture Minister Mr.Mahesh Sharma)
Interestingly we have two scenarios developing here; one, the artists who have been kept outside the ‘nepotistic’ circuits now can apply to prove their worth by open application. Two, those who do not apply and get categorized by the government could, at best operate for themselves and exist or die. The former set of artists who would apply would naturally be those people who agree with the categorization process; that means, their creativity could be assessed and marked by the nameless and faceless panel of judges comprising of the ministry’s bureaucrats who definitely agree with the ideological stance of the government. That means, the artists who apply for certification to exist and work and even exhibit in this country as well as elsewhere prove themselves to be the fellow travellers of the government’s ideology. The second set of artists who do not apply is then seen as the renegades and rebels who do not want to agree with the government ideology. That means those who do not apply could be seen as anti-national (for they do not want to go with the norms of the ministry), anarchic (for the same reason) and even seditious (for the refuse a chance to represent India in global platforms). To put it simply, eventually you need a certificate from the cultural ministry to read, write, paint, sculpt, sing, dance and do anything creative. It is a new way of licensing creativity. If you do not apply and not get categorized by the government, then the government (at least the ministry of culture) do not virtually take any responsibility of your creativity. If someone barges into your studio and heckles for the art work that you are doing or a novel or poem that you are writing, the government could say that you were doing a work without license that’s why people attacked you. This is the time of moral policing. If the food in your fridge could cost your life, what about your poems, paintings and all which are not kept within the fridge?
The Cultural Minister of India, Mr.Mahesh Kumar means well when he says that this certification is purely for letting the real talent have its exposure nationally and internationally, on the platforms legitimized by the government. Considering the kind of nepotism existing in this country, we would tend to say that such a move is welcome. But there are always trap doors. How can you rate or categorize a work of art or poem or a song etc without enough expertise or critical authority and historical knowledge on those areas? How could bureaucrats judge works of art and literature, even if they are writers and painters in their own rights? Now, if at all the ministry appoints a high level committee comprising of experts from the respective fields, how could they be the ultimate authority in rating the works of art by the artists? A work of art or literature is adjudged by critical as well as mass communities together and separately. At times, what a critical community acclaims as best may not go well with the public judgement. Some liked by the majority of population are disliked by the critical community. But the good thing is that through pertaining cultural studies both these views are accommodated in writing the critical histories not only of those creative forms but also of the country in general. Licensing is a way of killing such pluralistic and critical approach. It monopolized opinion and it is a fascistic move.
(A ticket wending establishment)
All the fascist countries have tried to curb creativity or they have tried their best to bring the critical community to their side either by buying out or by coercion. Those who don’t are simply eliminated. Unfortunately in any country we have millions of creative people who simply walk into the traps of the governments without knowing the implications of the ideologies upon which they build the governance or simply walking to this willingly because they belong to such oppressive ideologies. Soviet Union had done this. So was Mao in China during the Cultural Revolution. This was how creativity was curbed and disparaged in the Nazi Germany. So many countries where fascistic regimes still hold power create government literature. There will be a huge exodus as a result, of the creative people leaving such countries barren in intellectual activism. The histories of those periods will go down in the drains only come back as nightmares in the hands of the strong creative people enriching the worlds once again.
Thanks to the growing intolerance in India, many creative people had given back their awards to the academies. They are still fighting their case and we know who stands where. Mr.Mahesh Sharma had admonished and rebuked the writers of this country, telling them to ‘stop writing’ instead of making noises and gestures of resistance against intolerance. There is no wonder the same minister is now bringing this move to ‘rate’ the artists in this country. Licensing of creativity is as severe as silencing of creativity. It is time that once again the creative forces in the country gravitate against such moves. Our artists have been surreptitiously enjoying the perks of the previous governments. They should also come out clean to fight this case. The private sector has been aiding many of our artists in this country to travel and exhibit abroad and gain international acclamation. They are known as Indian artists, whereas the artists who are sent to other international platforms on behalf of India are often not taken seriously, for the nepotistic moves that they have been resorting to. Mr.Mahesh Sharma is recruiting for mediocrity. At the same time, the talented ones should not just sit silently only because they are supported by private agencies. Silence is a way of participation. Licensing is a coercion to participate in their ideologies. It is high time that we all realize it.