One Gay Artist vs. India's 'Moral Police'

Balbir Krishan's celestial artwork still shines even after censorship in southern India.

BY Christopher Harrity

January 03 2014 5:00 AM ET

Balbir Krishan, courtesy of the subject.

On December 2, The Times of India reported that artist Balbir Krishan's exhibit, "My Bed of Roses," at the Muse Gallery in Hyderabad had been closed down by the "moral police." The censorship coincidentally foreshadowed the reinstatement of Section 377, a colonial-era law banning gay sex, little more than a week later.

Krishan's partner, Mike Giangrasso, responded to our inquiries about the exhibit with some of its images, which are included here on the following pages, and with an account of what happened at the Muse Gallery.

Because we were concerned for Krishan's partner's safety as well, we asked if he could give us permission to use his name in the article, as that would subject him to possible arrest. On December 18, he replied:

"Recent and still unfolding events in India make things less secure. Homosexual relations are now illegal in India, as of one week ago, December 11. This is after the cancellation of the exhibition in Hyderabad. Because some of Balbir's artwork contains homoerotic images, he would now be liable to arrest, and these are now basically unexhibitable in the country.

"You may have heard about the deepening diplomatic row between India and the U.S. Today's latest news reports suggest that gay American residents in India may also be subject to arrest and visa cancellation.

"I'd like my name attached. I'm not used to hiding, and not prepared for regressive steps. We have to weigh philosophy vs. personal safety and security."

During our communication with Giangrasso, what became equally striking about the exhibit and the courage of two gay men who want it shown is the remarkable story of Krishan's life. Here is a gay man who overcame internalized shame and realized his life's mission only after surviving a suicide attempt, in which he was run over by a train.

This Is Not Dark Life
Acrylic on canvas
39” x 84” (triptych)

Continue reading for more artwork, the remarkable story of Balbir Krishan's life as told by Mike Giangrasso, and the closure of the exhibit at the Muse Gallery >>>

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