Kochi Biennale – Excuse to Promote Terrorism ?

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!


References: New World Summit

Artist to hold summit of banned organizations at Kochi Biennale

7 comments for “Kochi Biennale – Excuse to Promote Terrorism ?

  1. Jonas Staal
    December 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Dear Gokul Varma,

    I deeply disagree with the manner that you have portrayed the New World Summit initiative, of which I am the founder, on your blog.

    We are an artistic and political organization that facilitate a critical dialogue with- and between organizations “banned” from democratic process. We believe that the use of so called “blacklists” or “designated lists of terrorist organizations” generates more violence, as it legitimizes dangerous expansion of the military state apparatus, for example through the declaration of the “state of emergency,” which puts civil liberties and the capacity of people to control their government to serious risk. This type of legislation also makes it impossible to create any transparancy or public control concerning the behavior of these blacklisted organizations, as they are placed outside of the law and can thus not be held accountable for their actions.

    This does not mean that we legitimize the use of violence. We do not. But we oppose the idea that there is such a thing as a “limit” to democracy, and we oppose the way that so called “terrorist” legislation is not applied to the military actions of states, equally to that of blacklisted organizations.

    Further, as you could have known from the different information provided at the New World Summit pavilion at the biennale, the representatives of organizations invited at the New World Summit in Kochi are all based in India. They are the diplomatic representatives of these organizations, involved in peace negotiations, or they have already served their sentence in jail. Our summit is thus completely legal. We seek to enlarge the space within which we explore the concept of democracy, but we do this within the space provided by Indian law.

    The reason why there are also flags present in our “alternative parliament” from organizations blacklisted outside of India is because we believe that there is something specific to learn from the relationship between colonialism and so-called “terrorism” in the specific context of India, that can be applied to many blacklisted organizations outside the country as well.

    Jonas Staal.

    • December 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Sir, I thank you for replying to me. The premise of your concept is valid enough, there are far many organizations that are downtrodden by the bureaucracies of our world for merely being contrarian in their views. Those organizations who have been genuinely downtrodden do deserve their voices to be heard. But what of those organizations that have shunned the civilized norms of discourse and engaged in acts of terrorism, wanton murder of innocents? They kill not their oppressors but the very people they claim to represent. Indian Mujaheddin, an organization purportedly created to avenge attacks on Muslims in India in Kashmir and elsewhere have through their acts of terror killed innocent human beings. Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Muhammad, Hizb ul Mujaheddin are not as you may think representations of communities who are struggling for voice, but proxy forces employed by nations hostile to India. The moment these organizations started harming innocent people they forfeit their chances at civilized discourse at venues such as you are arranging.

      My point remains, when you conducted your program in Germany or when you conduct the program in Netherlands at the end of this month I do not see a single organization that have done acts of terror in these nations as having been invited. There are neo-Nazi groups still operational in Europe who are even now promoting anti Semitism. Or Ku Klux Klan of United States of America!! Surely as so called “marginalized” groups they too deserve their voices to be heard?

      Sir, in India acts of terrorism is not just faded memories from decades back. We are under its threat every single day thanks to these organizations whom you have invited. You may not directly contribute to their funding, you may not invite their master minds, but inviting their so called representatives to justify their acts of terror is a slap in the face of every freedom loving person.

      I fully understand the ideals of freedom and democracy you seek to espouse. But there is a very basic tenet of any freedom, a person’s freedom extends only until the point when another’s freedom gets violated. And these organizations have violated the lives of countless innocents. As regards civil liberties, these very organizations are the greatest violators of civil liberties. You have invited Al Qaeda, the partner of Taliban in Afghanistan to these summits. Could you have any more flawed example of champions of civil liberties?

      Repeating the Godwin’s Law, can any measure of civil liberty and freedom of speech justify inviting supporters of Nazi ideology spewing their venom in public? Sure these organizations may not be as adept as Nazis in the murder of innocents, but that is only a matter of scale not graveness.

      Gokul Varma NK

  2. Arun Krishna Menon
    December 27, 2012 at 10:53 am

    It would be a pioneer of terrorist group,against holly india so we should give protection for our mother land.We extend our whole hearted support.

  3. Pk Satish
    December 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    While I agree for the need for dialogue as a way to resolve issues, I agree with Gokul Varma that India has suffered a lot due to acts of terrorism. I do not think that the time or place is right for this to be hosted in India. Let the terrorist organisations shun violence, then we can talk to them!

  4. Vidhya Harfaz
    December 27, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Dear Jonas Staal

    Arranging for an audience for such extremist groups by means of an art expo, I feel, is rather weak an argument. The UN has had many futile attempts in trying to hold talks with such outfits and those well-meant attempts were intended to bring ideologies to the table out in the open. Such groups obviously believe in being ‘heard’ through much heinous means that do not even think twice about taking innocent lives and butchering the hopes and dreams of families the world over.
    Terrorism is a threat that we Indians wake up to and live with everyday, sadly so. It has become a mundane part of our lifestyle and we struggle to break free from these pseudo chains of fear. To encourage ‘participation’ of these threat-inducing organizations [representatives or not] in our very soil is definitely a ‘slap on our faces’ and in turn trivializing the trauma, anguish and deep-rooted pain that terrorism has caused to us as a peace-loving democratic nation.
    I’m afraid I still do not understand the agenda/ intention of this summit and think that somehow the organizers do not fathom the magnitude of the folly that this is. Paying heed to the ridiculous ideologies of such extremist outfits, let alone inviting them over, in the pretext of art is not justifiable at any cost.

    Vidhya Harfaz

  5. Vidhya Harfaz
    December 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Indian Mujahidin (IM) is an Islamist group based in India. IM have sent several emails to make their aims public, the following citation dates from 2008: “Here we are back […] once again calling you all, who disbelieve in Allah and His Messenger Muhammad to accept Islam and bear witness that there is none to be worshipped except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Accept Islam and save yourselves. O Hindus! O disbelieving faithless Indians! Haven’t you still realized that the falsehood of your 33 crore dirty mud idols and the blasphemy of your deaf, dumb, mute idols are not at all going to save your necks, Insha-Allah, from being slaughtered?” The group has regional aspirations with the ultimate aim of creating an Islamic caliphate across South Asia.”
    This is the agenda, the ideology, the VOICE of the IM. Are we really going to give them a platform to chant this out in public? Is this what ‘Art’ has become?!

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