It’s politics vs culture at IGNCA, say ex members

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New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) With the row over the rejigging of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) yet to die down, its former members have demanded that cultural institutions should be free of politics for their smooth functioning.

The government’s decision to dissolve the board of trustees at the IGNCA had sparked a controversy on Wednesday after opposition parties termed them political appointments.

A. Ramachandran, a former member and veteran painter, told IANS that government should allow cultural institutions to run on their own strength and should stop interfering in their affairs.

Ramachandran, who opted out of the IGNCA trusteeship of IGNCA six month on health and age factors, also pointed out that he wanted to exit gracefully before being thrown out.

“I was thrown out once when NDA came to power. All governments want to keep their people. I knew that the new government will ease out the memebers appointed by previous regime. I was wondering why it took so long,” said the artist, asserting he is not linked to any political party.

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Ramachandran, one of the senior members among the IGNCA trustees, has held the membership thrice since prime minister Rajiv Gandhi set up the IGNCA, an autonomous institution under the culture ministry, in 1985.

“I was chosen based on the merit of my work and we never faced any interference from governments so far in our work.,” said the receipient of the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian hobour.

Referring to Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma’s comment that the ministry wanted to bring change, the artist said that psychology behind this was to manoeuvre institutions.

“Every government wants to induct its people. The psychology of change is to control,” he said, expressing hope that the government has entrusted the job to people of caliber and efficiency.

“It’s a premier institution meant for research based work on various fields of culture and art. It is not like the Lalit Kala Akademi or the National Museum,” he said, adding that the government should entrust cultural institutions to private players as they can do a better job.

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According to another former trustee and eminent film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, governments induct people of their choice and convenience as long they have the power to appoint.

Gopalakrishnan, who was appointed a trustee during Manmohan Singh’s second ministry, was eased out after a year when Ambika Soni took over the reins of culture ministry from Jaipal Reddy.

“I came to know about my appointment as a IGNCA trustee from newspaper reports and they also dropped me without informing me. Along with me, (sarod maestro) Amjad Ali Khan was also dropped. I still don’t know the reason,” he said, adding that the appointments are done on the whims and fancies of the ruling dispensations, irrespective of parties

However, another outgoing member and prominent Kathak dancer, Shovana Narayan, said that it’s routine for any government to reconstitute the panel as the members serve only for limited tenure.

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“I don’t find any controversy in it. It’s normal for the government to disband the committee,” she said.

Dismissing allegations that appointments are politically motivated, Sonal Mansingh, a veteran classical dancer and newly-appointed IGNCA member, said that the trend began in 2004 with the first UPA regime.

“As soon as the Congress came to power, they had the list of people appointed by previous NDA government. As the chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi, I had to leave before my term as they unleashed a vicious campaign against me,” said Mansingh adding that she is not affiliated to any political party.

Referring to the alleged proximity of the newly-appointed members to the ruling party, the artist said that each member is well recognised in their fields.

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