Two sculptors cross swords over Netaji statue at India Gate


NGMA had issued work order to one for creating a solid model and to the other for carving a statue in stone granite 

NGMA had issued work order to one for creating a solid model and to the other for carving a statue in stone granite 

After the lull imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly christened Kartavya Path is attracting crowds all over again. One of the centres of attraction is the 28-foot-tall black granite statue of Subhas Chandra Bose placed under the canopy behind India Gate.

But, two artists are contesting over their share of contribution to the piece of art, which was unveiled with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.

After sculptor Arun Yogiraj, through a series of social media posts on Friday, contested the claim of artist Naresh Kumawat that he designed the model of the statue, both artists produced their respective work orders allotted by the National Gallery of Modern Art.

Mr. Kumawat, in an interview with The Hindu, published on November 11, had said that he created a model of the statue before a team of craftsmen carved it in stone.

While the NGMA officials agreed that work orders were issued to the two artists, they refused to go into the claims and counterclaims made by the artists. NGMA Director Adwait Gandanayak chose to remain silent on the subject. “I will check with the office,” he said. With the NGMA not clearing the air, the dispute remains alive.

Both artists project proximity to Mr. Modi and have shared multiple photos with the Prime Minister on their respective Twitter timelines.

There is no dispute over Mr. Yogiraj leading the team of sculptors that carved the stone statue. The Hindu, in an article published on September 9, credited him with chiselling the statue.

Mr. Kumawat’s assertion all along has been that Mr. Yogiraj worked on the model designed by him. In a video interview given to news agency ANI, conducted around the time of the unveiling in September and carried by multiple news platforms, Mr. Kumawat said that “he considered himself lucky that he got an opportunity to design the model of Netaji’s statue”.

On Saturday, Mr. Kumawat reiterated the claim and produced the work order. The order dated May 26, 2022, said that the NGMA was pleased to issue a work order to Matu Ram Art Centres, the company of Mr. Kumawat, for the making and supplying of solid models to NGMA for the Netaji statue.

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Earlier, Mr. Yogiraj posted his order issued by the NGMA on June 13, 2022. Addressed to Mr. Yogiraj’s Kashyapa Shilpkala Nikethan, it conveyed the approval of the competent authority for having “the statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose carved in granite stone from your esteemed agency”.

Mr. Kumawat held there were two work orders issued by the NGMA for building the statue. “One was for sculpting a model and another one was for carving it in stone. After days of research, which included taking inputs from the family of Netaji and the NGMA Director General, Mr. Gandanayak, an acclaimed sculptor himself, we sculpted clay models and cast them in fibreglass for submission. One of these models was approved and given to the carving team to build the final statue in stone.”

Mr. Kumawat said he visited the NGMA workshop when Mr. Yogiraj was working to see the progress and provided wire saw machines and labour to carve the stone. He also shared his pictures with Mr. Yogiraj and of a sample statue on the site that was purportedly used for reference. k

In a Deccan Herald article dated June 3, Mr. Yogiraj is quoted as saying that “the design of the statue would be provided by the NGMA”. On Saturday, Mr. Yogiraj said he didn’t refer to anyone’s model and that he created his own prototype for reference after extensive research. On the article, he said, “I was told that the Ministry wanted the salute pose of Netaji and I, accordingly, created a model. A sculptor of my standing doesn’t need to copy or refer to anybody else’s model. And I have documentary proof to show that Mr. Kumawat is misguiding people.”

Asked about the work order issued to Mr. Kumawat, Mr. Yogiraj said it was something between Mr. Kumawat and the NGMA. “I can only guess that his models were rejected.” One of the general conditions mentioned in the order said the models would be finalised after the approval of the Director-.General, NGMA.

Mr. Kumawat said if his model was not approved, “why was I paid around ₹70 lakh for the work?”

While Mr. Kumawat provided a photocopy of the work order and photographs to show his involvement with the project, he could not share any proof of the payment made to him despite repeated assurances.


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