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Protecting cows, ignoring women

An Indian independent artist who works for social issues is photographing women all over the country to raise awareness for their safety in the country Photograph:( WION )

WION Delhi, India Jun 16, 2017, 11.50 AM (IST) Written By: Zeba Khan

If you spot a guy clicking pictures of women wearing a cow head mask, stop and look. There is a very powerful message behind this exercise. 
Sujatro, an independent artist from Calcutta in India is photographing women with these head masks as a form of protest against women abuse and harassment. Speaking to WION about his photography series, he says, “I am very concerned about the current political dilemma in our country. Incidents of rising number of crimes against women are dangerously high. I have always spoken against whatever wrong I saw. Physically fighting with the situation was never an option so I planned to take the help of art and came up with this.”
Within a week of thinking of the idea, Sujatro took out his camera kit and started asking female friends for help. “The idea was lingering for a month but I was confused for its execution. I was divided between a studio portrait series vs a street series”, he says. 
Why are these women wearing cow masks, I ask?

He answers, “I wish to send a strong message across with this fictional photo story of mine. Obviously, all of us are aware of the incidents revolving around cows, from Dadri to Madras. These days, the right-wing extremists have been making an effort to protect the cow who they consider as our mother. On the other hand, we don't care about the ever increasing crime rates and incidents of rape and molestation of women. That is why I am photographing women wearing cow masks.”

A woman wearing a cow head mask poses in front of India Gate in New Delhi (Source: Sujatro Ghosh) (Others)


A woman with a cow head mask (Source: Sujatro Ghosh) (Others)


Sujatro hails from Kolkata and shifted to Delhi a couple of years back. He calls this a “paradigm shift”. He says, “In Kolkata, I was exposed to a liberal upbringing and had never experienced polarisation or extremism on the basis of religion. The incidents in Dadri and other cow slaughtering incidents made me ponder about what I could do to stand up for it. I took the support of art and took the protest a step forward through social media to make myself heard. 
“Delhi is the heart of politics with the highest number of crimes against women and unwanted incidents of religious extremism. So Delhi was obviously the first choice to start the protest. I started with photographing in two of the most iconic locations in Delhi, India Gate and the President's House.”
He describes this protest as a “political discourse” which “doesn’t have a name yet”. 
He narrates, “When I started with the first shoot, people didn’t know how to react. They had no idea what I was doing and just laughed. They thought it was funny and it actually helped make the subject at ease.” 
“Post production for the project was tough, many of my friends and acquaintances rejected the offer and told me they won't be okay with showing their body in such a way. There were others who agreed on being photographed but were not ready to expose their identity. I am happy that now people are enquiring about my project, I have been getting messages from all over the country”, he adds. 
Sujatro emphasises that the location of the shoot and identities of the women is not at all important. He says, “It’s the message that needs to be spread across.” 

A woman with a cow head mask (Source: Sujatro Ghosh) (Others)


A woman wearing a cow head mask as part of a campaign against women abuse (Source: Sujatro Ghosh) (Others)


He shared his first photograph on Instagram where he enjoys a huge fan following. He says, “Social media helps you connect with the masses. My Instagram has a refined following even though my profile on Instagram is public. After that, I posted some on Facebook and made this public.” 
What if the campaign backfires, are you scared?

He says, “I am ready for any situation. I am truthful to myself, I know what I am doing. My intention is never to make fun of the cow. I respect the Hindu religion, and that cows are protected by them. But I want these same people who treat cows as mothers and protect them to also have the same sense of protection for girls. Here I tag these girls as who are the mothers to the future generations. By way of my photo series I want to question as to why they don’t protect their women in the society with equal fervour?”
On whether this could become ugly, he says, “I am not really sure what it could start. I am optimistic and hopeful about something pleasant. I know this can take an ugly turn but I am not really worried about that now, as I know I am doing something for the greater good and I am surely not doing something wrong.”
The artist describes himself as a feminist artist on Instagram who is motivated to bring a change with his skills. “I wish to see this project become a collaborative movement where people join hands to educate the masses. I want to start a debate where masses contribute to the change by inviting discussions and convincing people by making them understand what is right and what is wrong.”
At the end of the interview, when I ask where he got the mask from, he gleefully adds that “it’s from New York".
*Disclaimer: The photographs shared through this project are exclusively owned by the artist. The sole aspiration of the creator of this work is to raise awareness regarding important social issues. It is to be noted that the artist does not intend to hurt the religious/political/ spiritual belief of any individual, community, sect or religion. The artist does not intend to defame any individual, organisation, community or disregard any individual’s choice or opinion.

Story highlights

I respect the Hindu religion, and that cows are protected by them. But I want these same people who treat cows as mothers and protect them to also have the same sense of protection for girls.