An artist holding an exhibition in the capital on the theme of homosexuality was on Thursday attacked and abused by an unidentified assailant, who also damaged one of the paintings on display.
The artist, Balbir Krishan, said the attacker entered the solo exhibition space at Lalit Kala Akademi with his face covered by a handkerchief. He pushed and kicked Krishan, a double amputee who has lost both his legs, while hurling insults all the while.
Krishan, 38, from a village called Bijrol in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh, had received several threats over phone on Wednesday. The calls — made from phone booths – accused the artist, himself homosexual, of “spreading” homosexuality in the country. According to Krishan, the caller said, “Tuney Hindu dharam ko bigarne ka theka laga rakha hai (You are determined to ruin Hinduism).” Before that, posters advertising his exhibition at Garhi studios and near Jamia Milia Islamia, were ripped and burnt.
Balbir and a few of his friends had come to the gallery at about 10.30am to shoot a video of the exhibition and pack the paintings. He was standing by the door of the second room of the gallery “giving bites” for the video when a big-built man (as per the group’s estimate, he was about 5’10″) pushed him from behind.
A train accident in 1996 had claimed both of Balbir’s legs from knee down and he uses prosthetic legs. He fell forward. The assailant next smashed the frame of a small work closest to the door, damaging the artwork in the process, and proceeded to kick Balbir in the side. He also spouted hateful lines including, “Hussain go bhaga diya, tu kya cheez hai? (We chased Hussain away, you are nothing).”
Krishan has been painting male nudes from the start. His paintings had created a furor at Bijrol at first but are now tolerated. This was his first exhibition on the subject.
“I never thought something like this could happen here,” said an injured Balbir later, “If my paintings offend anyone, they are welcome to discuss it with me.”
As those in the room reacted, the attacker fled, with Krishan’s companions – participating artists present for another exhibition happening on the ground floor and a security guard – in pursuit. The attacker gave the main gate a miss – two guards were posted there – choosing instead to jump over the iron railing on the side. He fell once too but still managed to give the pursuers the slip.
He got away but Vivek Sharma, also of Baghpat, who was shooting the video, kept the camera rolling when the attack happened and managed to capture the masked assailant in action. The police visited the gallery at that time and once again in the evening. The footage was handed over to them.
Krishan filed a complaint with the police and he got a medical examination conducted. The paintings have been moved from the venue; the same exhibition will be on at Triveni Kala Sangam from Friday.