Understanding Article 19[1]a “Right to freedom of speech and expression” through an exhibition

Dhrupad Mehta in collaboration with Nathi Nonsense and Conflictorium bring us an eye-opening exhibition with the motive of educating Ahmedabad about Article 19[1]a, which refers to the right to freedom of speech and expression. Over the years, this right has been violated in various cases. This exhibition tries to bring these problems into our perspective.

sirph hangaama khada karana mera makasad nahin,

meree koshish hai ki ye soorat badal nee chaahie.

mere seene mein nahin to tere seene mein sahee,

ho kaheen bhee aag, lekin aag jalanee chaahie.

—Dushyant Kumar

In his poem, Dushyant Kumar writes that he does not intend to create a ruckus with his actions. All he wants to bring about is a change—whoever it is through, it doesn’t matter, but the fire must burn. Sharing this ideology, Dhrupad Mehta in collaboration with Nathi Nonsense and Conflictorium have installed an exhibition which tries to educate the people of Ahmedabad about Article 19[1]a of The Constitution of India which states: “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”. Expression being a vital aspect of our communication, the exhibition explores the philosophical, psychological, legal, political and social aspects of this fundamental right.

featured cases where Article 19[1]a was violated
The exhibition included article cut-outs that featured cases where Article 19[1]a was violated
It was an eye-opening experience for me to walk through the exhibition and watch the drapes that carried information about Article 19 on them, and article cut-outs that referred to incidents when the right was violated. The exhibition has been funded by Changelooms Fellowship programme, a programme that encourages, recognizes and supports young social entrepreneurs to achieve their potential to lead social change initiatives.

Art Installation a gigantic speaker
The third room featured a gigantic speaker which has a message for the viewers

On the first day, the exhibition started with an opening note by the curators who explained their motive behind the installation. It has been designed in a narrative manner, with the themes and styles changing as the viewer would go from one room to other. The curators have tried to make the experience for the viewers informative while keeping them at the edge of their seats and craving to know what happens next.

“We didn’t want the exhibition to be like a lecture which bombards the viewers with information,” said Dhrupad in his note. “We wanted to create a healthy dialogue between them and the constitution. And we wish that everyone creates their own perspective about the subject or learns something new while observing the installation.”

Taking a moment of his time after the speech and the walk was over, I asked him about the inspiration behind installing this exhibition. He said, “This idea has always been in my mind but I got inspired [to work towards it] when the movie, Padmaavat was about to be released. Without even watching the movie, the censor board decided to put a ban on it. School buses were being stoned and a lot of ruckus was brewing just because of a movie. There have been other movies, like Lipstick under my Burkha, that have been victims to this problem. I decided that I wanted to do something about it, and as I was working in a fellowship called Changelooms, I started researching about the topic and I found that all the parties in power had violated this right in some way or the other and not only movies but also books and visual art pieces have been attacked or completely banned. As the idea shaped up, it found associates in Nathi Nonsense and Conflictorium. And here we are.”

Article 19[1]A, Conflictorium, art exhibition
From left to right: Ravi Patel, Ananda Lekhsmi, Manasvi Shah, Dhrupad Mehta, V. Divakar, Purvang Joshi, Manas Daxini, Sonia Mishra
The exhibition is open at the Conflictorium from 6:30 – 8 p.m. till September 27th. Make sure to visit the exhibition and learn about all the debates around Article 19 and the number of cases when it has been violated.

***

All the images have been taken by Manas Daxini, one of the contributors of the exhibition.

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