A painting of a saffron-clad Vivekananda on a compound wall of the Coimbatore Government Arts College, has snowballed into a controversy with even the Prime Minister's office getting dragged in. This after the student who drew the figure approached the Prime Minister's office alleging that the college was threatening to suspend him. The student went on to receive a reply from the PM's staff assuring him that they would look into the issue.
The painting shows Vivekananda standing upright, clad in saffron robes and was painted by M Ganesh, a student, who is pursuing his Masters in Political Science at the college. On September 28, he received oral permission from his Head of the Department to paint the picture of Vivekananda on a wall which had the department's sign board. Drawings of BR Ambedkar, Periyar and Karl Marx were already present on the surface and Ganesh drew the Vivekananda in the space available on the left side of the wall.
"But soon after I drew it, the college staff asked why I drew it there. They told me I didn't have permission and that I could be suspended for drawing this picture. Even students of the Students Federation of India (SFI) threatened me for the picture," he alleges. "Our central government has said that Swami Vivekananda is a youth icon and we should celebrate him but I was being penalised for doing this. When there can be Periyar and Marx on the wall, why can't we paint Swami Vivekananda? It is not like I drew over the other paintings," he adds.
In his complaint to the PMO, Ganesh says that his painting created 'chaos' in the college. He was allegedly called for an enquiry by the Head of the department and asked why he drew near the existing pictures of the leaders.
"SFI and AISF have also raised voice against me for the above. The college staff is also biased towards me and they are all compelling/forcing me to remove the painting of Swami Vivekananda alone. They also threatened me that if I do not remove the painting they will fail me in academics and suspend me from the college," he wrote.
And in response to this, on October 20, a receipt from the PMO shows that the grievance has been accepted.
"In this connection, a detailed representation may be given to the Principal, so as to take necessary actions as early as possible," it states.
While Ganesh claims that the PMO's response to his grievance has put the problem to rest, the college says they have received no communication from the Centre.
"Yes, there were some issues, but it has been sorted," says Dr. Chitra, the Principal. She however denies threatening to suspend the student. "Usually, for such activities students must get the principal's permission. In this case, the student has spoken to only his HoD. It all boils down to a miscommunication. There is no issue with him painting the Vivekananda. It is just that we would have officially allocated a place and followed due procedure," she adds. A source in the college also added that the administration took objection to the depiction of Vivekananda in saffron robes.