'My Education Is at Stake': MSU Art Student Kundan Mahato Urges Modi To Meet Him

In May, right-wing groups objected to Kundan's art, saying that it hurt religious sentiments

3 min read

Kundan Kumar Mahato, who has been permanently debarred from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, over a controversy about his artwork, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging the PM to let Kundan meet him when the PM visits Baroda on 18 June, and intervene.

Kundan, originally from Godain Fulkahan in Bihar, had hoped to succeed in the field of fine arts, when he joined the university. But only four months into his course, he was booked by the Gujarat police and rusticated by the university. In his letter to the PM, he said that his artwork was misinterpreted and used as a tool to attack his faculty.

"I belong to a very poor family from a small village in Bihar. I am a son of daily wage labourer and our annual income is below poverty line. My intentions were not heard or considered and I was accused and punished for a crime that I never did. I am writing this letter with this hope that you will hear my side and will make some time to allow me to meet you in person."
Kundan in his letter to the PM

The controversy was over his artwork, which he said was misinterpreted. Right-wing groups objected to his art, saying that it hurt religious sentiments, after which an FIR was filed against him on 9 May. He was arrested on 4 June and granted bail on 8 June. While the court said that no offence could be made out under 295A, the university has still not reconsidered the rustication. When The Quint reached out to the university for a comment, they did not respond.

‘My Intention Was Not To Hurt Religious Sentiments'

Kundan in his letter to the prime minister said that his intention was not to hurt anybody’s religious sentiments. His artwork, which was criticised for being ‘distasteful and hurtful to religious sentiments’, was prepared by newspaper clippings of rape and murder of women. The collage made the form of Hindu goddesses.

Regarding the work, he said;

"My work tried to raise voice against the violence and injustice that happen to women in our country where women are worshipped as goddesses. I felt pained which led me to express it through my art. I, a small-town boy from Bihar, came to Baroda to study here in the prestigious MS University."
Kundan in his letter to the PM

He added in the letter, “I came second in the college entrance process here at MSU. I feel deeply wronged and pained, and am at a loss since my education is at stake.”

According to the judgment that granted him bail, no intention, ‘deliberate’ or ‘malicious’ attempt to outrage religious feelings, could be proved. Yet, the university has not responded to him or his father when they tried reaching out.

His lawyer, Hitesh Gupta, said that Kundan's father has tried to speak with the administration but has not been able to do so as yet. Students, too, have reached out to the administration seeking justice for Kundan but have not received a response.

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