Kochi Biennale – Excuse to Promote Terrorism ?

published on January 2, 2013

Gokul Varma

Aum Shinrikyo, Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Al’Qaida, Abu Sayyaf, Abu Nidal group, Babbar Khalsa, CIRA, Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin, Hezbollah, Harkat-ul-Mujaheddin, IRA, INLA, Indian Mujaheddin, Khalistan Commando Force, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Laskhar e Taiba, RIRA, SIMI, Tehreek e Taliban, ULFA, UVF.

These are just a few of the numerous terror organizations that have been invited as part of an event called the “New World Summit” that is to be conducted under the aegis of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 which started from December 12, 2012 and shall continue till March 13, 2013.  The objective is “ providing “alternative parliaments” hosting organizations that currently find themselves excluded from democracy, for example by means of so-called international designated terrorist lists.”

Sounds quite innocent enough, but do read through the list above once more. Terrorist groups who have blood of countless innocents on their hands. Are we really going to offer them a platform to advertise their hatred and excuses?

I had visited the much touted Biennale today, on the 25th of December 2012. I was enjoying the range of contemporary arts that are being exhibited through several venues in the Aspinwall compound at Fort Kochi when suddenly I noted the special pavilion with several flags forming a ring around it. Some of these flags were quite familiar to me, as a person who is a follower of military and security issues worldwide. I ventured closer and was aghast to see the flags of Indian Mujaheddin and Irish Republican Army, two organizations that I could recognize with the greatest ease by their flags. The plaque placed at the center of the pavilion provided information about the “New World Summit” being planned by the Netherlands artist Jonas Staal which was planning to conduct their third summit at Kochi in March 2013. The first summit was conducted at Berlin in May 2012 and the second is to be conducted at Netherlands on December 29th, 2012.  I was shocked that despite such blatant advertisement of terrorism, no one, not the politicians, nor the media who have been hyping much about the Biennale for ages noticed it.

Artists are often accorded their artistic freedom for nihilism and anarchy, for their spirits truly ought to be unbridled by restrictions. However these freedoms ought to stop at the point at which they transgress the limits of art and venture into political activism. Sure these terrorists may have various benign and noble excuses for what they profess, but their actions have nothing benign about them. From Aum Shinrikyo, who released the Sarin nerve gas in a crowded Tokyo metro killing 13 and injuring nearly a thousand innocent people to Indian Mujaheddin who have claimed responsibility for various terrorist bombing attacks all over India in the past decades, do these organizations deserve their voice and cause be accorded legitimacy at venues such as this? An art event of international stature, an event that was welcomed whole heartedly by the people of Kochi and Kerala, should that good will be showered upon these terrorist groups?

I am a firm believer of the motto that the best terrorist is a dead terrorist, so feel free to paint me as biased. But the day you are giving mainstream voice and legitimacy to terrorist groups, who have killed thousands of innocents for no matter whatever cause, you are joining the cause of terrorism yourself. Germany and Netherlands are nations that have not faced much terrorism in recent years. But I doubt even Germany or Netherlands would have permitted these summits to take place if any organization that took German or Dutch lives were being given advocacy there? I for one do not see Black September, Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine, Red Army Faction, Red Youth or the Japanese Red Army being offered a chance to make their case for “alternative parliament”.  I dont see the activists of the Free Maluku Selatan (Moluccas) being given speaking opportunities at Netherlands?

We in India, we face attacks from several of these terrorist groups. I suppose affront to Indian sensibilities does not matter as much as tip toeing around European sensibilities. Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Muhammad, Hizb ul Mujaheddin are names that even the least politically astute person in India knows, because of the extreme heinous nature of their crimes. It is an affront to our brave soldiers, our valiant policemen to our martyrs for such platforms to be given to such groups.  It is an affront to the secular fabric of a history city like Kochi, that in the place where the Jews always felt at home and were never persecuted, just a few kilometers from their historic Synagogue an organization like Hezbollah is given an opportunity to explain how right they are in thinking that all Jews ought to be wiped out. Invoking the inevitable Godwin’s Law, I would not be surprised if they had put up flags of National Socialist German Workers’ Party. When you give legitimacy to mass murderers surely you must not leave out the biggest of them all!

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