The Chinese government recently ordered three art galleries in Beijing to remove certain paintings from its display. The reason? They offended the sensitivities of the rulers. One of them portrayed Mao swimming in blood-coloured river, the second portrayed the 1989 massacre in stick drawing and the third, rather suggestive one, had a cultural revolution slogan made up of banknotes with Mao'simage.
The government action was part of the massive operation to throttle creative art, which may offend the official line. The drive was concentrated mainly in the Dashanzi art district, considered a centre of counter-culture. The art centres in China got emboldened to put up such contemporary works because several foreign galleries opened shop in Beijing.
The painting using Mao image was done by Gao Qiang. Huang Rui is another artist who has been under the government watch for some time now. His is the third painting mentioned above. He is known outside China, but in the dragon country his works hardly ever go out of the studio and the display lasts a few days or hours before the authorities come and pull it down.
But the artists are optimistic. They feel the situation is changing. A decade ago, their painting would have been destroyed and they would have been abused. But now, they are politely told to remove the artwork. Some change that!
One can'thelp comparing the reception M.F. Husain and his ilk get in this country.
American multinationals grow rich on kids? extra kilos
While one half of the youth is going crazy over the ever-shrinking waistline, what with modeling and fashion industry inspiring them, the generation next seems to be on the reverse. Child and adolescent obesity is on the rise world over, even in malnutritioned countries, with the urban-rural divide in place. The single culprit for this is the fast-food industry, the multinational food giants who add to their bank balance with every kilo of fat and unhealthy weight being added by kids. Fibre-less, pre-cooked, refrigerated food with nothing but fat value is being guzzled by kids at fast-food joints. Complementing the food binge is the lack of physical activity. The scenario is more true in India than elsewhere, where children are coming under increasing pressure to perform academically, at the cost of physical exercise and sports.
While in America most districts have banned processed fast food in schools, in Britain, the government carried out an official survey and discovered to its dismay that child obesity has doubled in the past 10 years. It has spiraled in the last three years.
Disney, one of the international (read American) motion picture giant had tied up with the McDonald (yet another American company) to give free toys with ?Happy Meals? which consists of a burger, thin coat of cheese and a slice of onion and tomato. Free flowed the Coke (yet another American company) in the offer. After the alarming reports on this kind of fast food and the growing campaign against burgers, pizzas and the like, Disney is contemplating withdrawing from the offer on Happy Meal to protect its image as a child and family friendly brand.
US seems to be the ?Land of Promise? for the aspiring students from India. According to a report published in the Guardian Weekly a few weeks ago, there are 80,000 Indian students in America as compared to 17,000 in the UK. And the British are worried. They are trying to find reasons why the Indians prefer America to their country. The Indian students are keen on learning and behave with seriousness that is common in Indian campuses. One of the reasons why they prefer America seems to be that Indians collectively, sub-consciously view England as a claustrophobic and stuffed society, as they behaved with the Indians when ruling us. Also the number of Indians who went to America and made it big is inspiring. According to an estimate, the net worth of emigrants to the US from the IITs alone is 30 billion dollars.
Low preference for teaching jobs in the West
In most western countries, teaching especially in school has become low in the choice jobs because of the way the students behave in the classrooms. A lady teacher from India who had gone to the UK on a job assignment came back shattered and had to be put under medical attention. The teachers recruited now are given an orientation and told what to expect in the class rooms?smoking children, students with their legs (with shoes on) on the table, boys and girls paring, constant walking in and out, etc. There has also been a recent drive to recruit teachers, especially for maths and English, to teach children online. The teachers go to designated cyber cafes in the night and the children come online, shooting problems and questions.
Right to privacy, freedom of expressions
It is good to read foreign periodicals. It gives a sadistic satisfaction. That almost all the European countries (US and UK included) are facing the troubles, on which they had been preaching to us for so long. Tackling Muslim terrorism. And the reaction and response of each of the countries make us sit up and wonder what have we been doing all these years.
While in America, now it has come in the open that the state is shamelessly spooking all the mails and telephones, in Britain, a law is getting ready. When it comes, it will ban celebrating terrorism. This means that anybody who holds a placard supporting any act of terror will be persecuted. The law has been voted by 327 to 279 by the British parliament. Conventionally, two months are given before implementation. What is more interesting is that this time 17 Labour members voted against the bill, 10 fewer than when the bill was first taken up in last November. The law will allow monitoring of the internet traffic of potential problem sites.
In Denmark, the immigration laws have been made stringent, dramatically reducing the number of people seeking asylum. This has directly hit the Muslims because they were the single largest group of immigration seekers. One of the activist Muslim leaders in Europe has said that Denmark had the harshest xenophobia and anti-Islam feeling among all European countries. The cartoon controversy was infact a show of that. One of the rising stars of the right wing movement, Morten Messerschmidt recently said that only by keeping the Muslim population ?as low as possible? could Denmark remain a free democratic country. Is there a parallel in the influx of Bangladeshis into Assam-Bengal region?
The Foreign Minister of Sweden quit a few weeks ago on the issue of freedom of expression. She was found having taken measures to shut down a website that was trying to publish fresh cartoons of Muhammad, at the height of protests across the Muslim world. The site of the far-rightwing group solicited new caricatures on the topic. The minister Laila Freivalds, 63, had to resign as she was seen to be attempting to stifle the right to free expression.
Plight of Indians in West Asia violates human rights
When the Human Rights Watch International makes a passing reference to Kashmir or any other state in India for adverse comments, the pan-secular crowd creates a ruckus, is the so-called victims are non-Hindus and the state is ruled by BJP or its ally. The latest report by the Human Rights Watch had such serious references against the UAE and some of the Arab countries where Indians, especially from the South are employed in large numbers. The report criticised the working and living conditions of the migrant labourers.
According to the Group'srecent report, in 2005, 80 Indians committed suicide, unable to bear the torment any longer. This other than the 800 foreigners who died in accidents during work. The reports of the living condition of these workers are heart-rending. According to an account, the workers are accommodated 12 to a windowless room. Their kitchens are located adjacent to overflowing toilets and forced to wash in brown muddy water. Their passports are seized, making them bonded labour. Their wages are not paid for months together, so that they cannot flee home. Unions are prohibited. Anyone who is known to indulge in group forming is jailed.
In recent months, there have been sporadic protests at construction sites. Some 2500 employees, mainly low-paid workers, went on a rampage recently, turning against their boss, who had withheld their salaries for months. They damaged cars and properties worth one million dollar.
The Indian government is aware of the reports. In fact, the minister for this Vayalar Ravi is from Kerala, the state that exports maximum labour to the west Asian countries. He apparently has turned a blind eye to the problem, not willing to comment on it officially. The lobour-loving comrades, one hopes will do something.