The 40th convocation of the Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Design (NID) has been postponed indefinitely, due to alleged displeasure from the government regarding the chief guest, Mallika Sarabhai. The 65 year old classical dancer and activist has been a vehement critic of Narendra Modi since his time as the chief minister of Gujarat.
The Indian Cultural Forum spoke to Sarabhai and she said that she has not received any official information from the design school’s authorities so far. “Except for a letter about the postponement that went to everyone, I have no information on the situation. I am also reading about it from the papers”, she said.
Sarabhai added, “However, if what is conjectured is true, it follows a pattern that has made itself clear over the last several months. None of us should be surprised. We live in troubling times of censorship and fear. What is seen as dissidence, dissent, or questioning the “single monolithic truth” is seen as treason. The “traitor” becomes an open game for violence and hatred.”
A noted Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam practitioner, Mallika Sarabhai is a Padma Bhushan awardee. In 1992, she was honoured with the Gujarat Government’s Gaurav Puraskar for her contributions to dance and theatre, as well as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2001. In 1999, the French government presented her with the highly respected Ordre des Palmes académiques. She has also acted in Malayalam, Gujarati, Hindi, and international films, which has also won her a couple of accolades.
Sarabhai was invited by NID, which falls under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to preside over the function, give away the Degrees as well as deliver the convocation address. The authorities of the institute have not yet given an explanation regarding the sudden postponement, and their only comment so far has been that it was due to “unforeseen circumstances”. This was done after invitation cards were sent out to students and their families, most of whom had to reach the city from far off places.