New Delhi, Sep 10 (UNI) Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today called on common people to jointly stand up against the efforts of various quarters to stifle creativity of artists ''who play a great role in promoting national unity and social integrity'' in the country through their works of art.
The Lok Sabha speaker said this after conferring the Lalit Kala Ratna awards on 13 eminent artists from across the country, chosen by the Lalit Kala Academy for their monumental contribution in the field of visual arts.
''For some time in the past there have been a number of attacks on artists across the country. This goes against out very national ethos as well as against the artists' Fundamental right for expression granted to them by the Constitution. It is time for common people to stand up and oppose these attacks on the fundamental freedom of these artists,''Mr Chatterjee said.
''Artists in the country through their work have made a meaningful contribution to the cause of unity and the growth of composite culture,'' he added.
Mr Chatterjee conferred the Lalit Kala Ratna on Bal Chhabra (Maharashtra), B N Arya (Uttar Pradesh), Devi Prasad (New Delhi), Dinkar Kowshik (West Bengal), K Rajaiah (Andhra Pradesh), Kekoo Gandhy (Mumbai), Krishna Reddy (New York), L Munuswamy (Tamil Nadu), Laxman Pai (Delhi), M V Krishnan (Kerala), Piraja Sagara (Gujarat), P N Choyal (Rajasthan) and Sobha Brahma (Assam).
Union Minister for Culture Ambika Soni was the Guest of Honour at the function held at Kamani auditorium which was presided over by Chairman of the Lalit Kala Academy R B Bhaskaran.
All the artists received a momento and a shawl. A portfolio containing works of the honoured artists was also released on the occasion and presented to the Culture Secretary Badal Das.
Presenting the awards, Mr Chatterjee said all the artists who have enriched Indian culture had been selected for the honour.
He also expressed hope that the awards would go a long way in inspiring the younger generation of artists to carry on with efforts to exploring new dimensions of art and culture.
Speaking on the occasion, the Union Minister for Culture Ambika Soni said, ''I feel immensely dwarfed in the presence of such a distinguished and august gathering. These are all eminent artists who will make us feel proud in any part of the world.'' Noting that Indian art and culture was being acclaimed increasingly in several parts of the world, she said, ''Today there are requests from countries around the world to run exhibitions and special shows that depict India as a 5000-year-old civilization even as they think of us as a young nation of 60 years.'' In this context, Mrs Soni said during her participation in Indian art exhibition in various parts of the world including China, Singapore and the US, she had found overwhelming response.
''I am confident of reviving the recognition of our traditional art works all over the world in the coming years,''she added.
The art loving audience present on the ocassion was treated to an enthralling flute recital by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, accompanied by Sunil Avachat, Vijay Ghate on Tabla, Jayanti Lal Ghoshar on guitar and Pushpanjali Chaurasia on Tanpura.
A committee constituted by Lalit Kala Academy selectyed the 13 artists for the honour.