Modi Govt has Diluted Social Harmony, Created Eco Problems: Jogen Chowdhury
| Didhiti Ghosh - 07 Oct 2018

Exclusive Interview with Painter and Poet Turned Politician Jogen Chowdhury by Didhiti Ghosh 

Kolkata, 6th Oct. 2018: “The BJP has the highest level of political finance power in India, and the party is trying to subjugate Bengal with this power in every possible way. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government has diluted social harmony and has deliberately created economic problems through their ventures of demonetization and GST. These ventures had been taken safeguarding the interests of a few powerful people and talking of the GST, the decision was made very rapidly without the formation of an impartial committee. The TMC has brought about much change since its inception after the then in power Communist government. However, the Modi government did not provide the state with adequate grants which has been a burden on the ruling party throughout," said Jogen Chowdhury, Painter and Poet Turned Politician and MP, Rajya Sabha from the ruling TMC in West Bengal.

Jogen Chowdhury talked to INDIAN OBSERVER POST Correspondent DIDHITI GHOSH in Kolkata on several burning political issues related to the State and also about his art in a freewheeling Exclusive Interview. Here is an Excerpt:  

The BJP has drawn up a plan to organise awareness campaign across West Bengal, to explain the necessity of preparing a National Register of Citizens for the state. While the CM Mamata Banerjee has dared the BJP-led government at the Centre, to start the process in the State, what is your view?  

  • I strongly feel that all the real citizens should have a right to live in their state, and political power should not distort this right. To me, humanity and respect for others are very important, and we should not deviate from these value systems when judging citizens’ geographical limits. The ruling party is also the state’s citizens, and the latter is a right which both the more powerful and the less powerful should have.

What do you think is the TMC’s take on the issue, specifying the fact that many people from Bangladesh live in the state and you are, originally, also from Bangladesh?

  • I came in Bengal during the 1947 partition, which was natural. I think that these border relations fall more in the domain of the Central Government’s responsibility, and the state government does not have much to kindle in the same.

What is your opinion on the future of the TMC government in Bengal?

  • The TMC has brought about much change since its inception after the then in power Communist government. During the Leftist rule, the state saw much decline in the business and commerce sectors. Although not solved yet, the non-employment crisis was more acute at that time, and the status of housing and education was very poor. Added to this was the issue of the Naxals, rampant abuse of strikes for petty reasons and no special provision for providing education to the economic minorities.
  • The Modi government did not provide the state with adequate grants which have been a burden on the ruling party throughout. The CM Mamta Banerjee is working very hard to bring about a change and I am sure that the people will help us in implementing it. Mention should be made of the fact that discipline should come from the people and that the party cannot control every aspect of development.

What do you think is the major change brought in West Bengal during the TMC’s rule?

  • The TMC has done a lot to bring about a change in all the sectors from their stagnated conditions. We can already see a positive change in the education sector where TMC has introduced the Kanyashree Prakalpa, and many new colleges have come up along with updated syllabus content. In civic improvement many new initiatives have come, where decisions for renovating state architecture and road planning have been taken and are being implemented. Along with this, the Chief Minister has taken many initiatives to bring improvement in the economic and business sectors by conducting annual business summits and meetings. A lot of development can also be seen in the tourism, hospitality and health sectors.

What is your view about the present election system?

  • All people have the right to vote, and I think that this system should be well regulated and disciplined. As regards the Panchayat elections, I think that it should come out of party-biased shackles and be based more on an approach which is individualist. The more these elections continue to be based on parties, the more local political rivalries become rampant. This creates a threat to people and robs them off peace and harmony necessary for implementing development schemes.

What is your view on the Modi government, taking into account the fluctuation in fuel prices and the present level of unemployment?

  • The BJP has the highest level of political finance power in India, and in my opinion, the party is trying to subjugate Bengal with this power in every possible way. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government has diluted social harmony and has deliberately created economic problems through their ventures of demonetization and GST. These ventures had been taken safeguarding the interests of a few powerful people and talking of the GST, the decision was made very rapidly without the formation of an impartial committee.
  • The system was so flawed that people in Gujrat started buying real estate and gold even before the official implementation of the demonetization plan. The conclusion to my evaluation of the present government is a conclusion full of questions which will perhaps never be answered.

Do you think that the Mamata Banerjee led TMC will join the Mahagathbandhan alongside the Congress against the BJP?

  • This is a difficult question. However, some unification is definitely an impending necessity in our country when a rational someone points out the many flaws that fail to be covered up by the little good known in the present time.

AS AN ARTIST

Do you define art as abstract, or is it more concrete in presentation?

  • I think that art is interwoven like a braid. Poetry, songs, paintings – all are different forms of art which also give origin to several other forms of subjective artistry. As different people give different meanings to art, which depends on their momentary sentience, it can be both abstract and concrete. This is also determined by how the artist is giving his emotions a definite form – for me, it is a mental perspective.

Do your paintings carry any particular theme? What are those?

  • My paintings are expressed is various forms similar to human and animal figures. All these carry a mixture of expressions related to their thoughts, emotions and manner of viewing events as they pass by.
  • I think that in art, unorganized sense becomes organized in form with time, and sometimes it becomes very difficult to say what exactly the meaning is of a particular painting. Many a times people ask this to me, and I remain defeated in giving them a precise answer.

While painting, do artists go through any particular mood-state, like being happy or being sad?

  • In artistry, I think that different moods play different roles in making the final form. Had everything been positive, optimistic and bright, perhaps art would never have been formed. A touch of sadness gives a painter like me the energy to create visual art.

How does Śantiniketan influence your creations?

  • Śantiniketan is my second home which has encouraged and inspired me on how to make curves depict the character of my figures. Tagore made me understand art in unique perspectives –Tagore also taught me how to present every stroke of colour in my paintings such that a hint of enigma remains in the mind of the viewer. This enigma gives rise to a sense of infiniteness and youth in the art form, which makes viewers explore it deeply.

What would you opine about modern and traditional art forms?

  • Modern art forms and traditional art forms are different points in the same continuum of artistic expression. Every form of art becomes differentially specific with time, gets more diverse and eventually withers out the concreteness that was originally a part of it. In a similar way, traditional art has now become, from a concrete definition to a palette of several colours which presents viewers with different tastes. A time will arrive in future when whatever is defined as modern art now, will become traditional.
  • Every individual is a form of societal art, and one such individual who has inspired me in my journey as a painter is Ramkinkar Baij, who was inspired by the rural dalits and adivasis. He was a resident of Śantiniketan and is a key figure of Contextual Modernism and history of Bengali sculpture.
  • The way an individual is shaped depends on the way they have been reinforced to respond in society by others. Like mute artists, they have intrinsic qualities which are made more concrete and observable by societal stimuli. The present government encourages people, especially the youth to express their views as members of different service groups, and I feel that a wise step has been taken.

Do you think knowledge of art and a desire to get involved in alternative forms of expression will help the present generation in reaching their goal in a better way, with faith and respect toward resources?

  • This is an important aspect to consider. Today most of the youngsters and youth find it difficult to trust others, and thereby feel insecure about their future. Everyone wants to be the best, and we as elders have to make them understand that every individual is special in his/her own way, which will present them will different opportunities in life.In present times we should learn to give space to others and live in harmony. In this aspect, knowledge and utility of art in real life is definitely very important for the present generation and everyone else.

 

ABOUT JOGEN CHOWDHURY

Jogen Chowdhury is an eminent Indian painter, poet and now politician. He is considered an important painter of 21st century India. The Professor Emeritus, Kala-Bhavana, Visva-Bharati Santiniketan, Chowdhury was born in Faridpur (present Bangladesh) in 1939. He graduated from the Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata in 1960.

In 1965, he went to Paris to study in Ecole des Beaux Arts, in William Hayter's Atelier 17. Afterwards he spent five months in London.

His first job was as an art teacher in Howrah zilla School. He was appointed as a textile designer in the Handloom Board in Chennai after returning to India in early 1968. In 1970, he joined the Calcutta Painters Group. His first collection of poems Hridoy Train Beje Othey was also published in the same year.

He quit his job at the Madras Handloom Board in 1972 to join the Art Gallery of Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi as a Curator. In 1975, he founded the Gallery 26 and Artists' Forum along with some leading painters of New Delhi. In 1986, Jogen represented India in the 'Festival of Art' in Baghdadwi.

An elected member of the Rajya Sabha in 2014, he is often referred to as a suggestive caricature artist having a filial affinity to nature and milieu. His most famous paintings are in ink, water colour and pastel. He has painted in oil medium as well.

(Didhiti Ghosh is a journalist, script-writer, psychologist, professor and a certified translator-interpreter of
Spanish language from Kolkata. Contact - didhiti.24@gmail.com)  


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