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M.F. Husain And The Test Of A Democracy

M.F. Husain And The Test Of A Democracy

June 12, 2011

M.F. Husain's death in exile reminds us of the complexities and ironies of India's democratic freedoms.



Maqbool Fida Husain, a.k.a M.F. Husain, was regularly called India’s Picasso. However, his life and work far transcended an easy comparison to another great artist, as big of a compliment as that may have been. Husain was one of the flag-bearers for modern India's cultural re-emergence in the 21st century. His art evolved alongside India's post-colonial narrative, embodying his country's trials, tribulations and successes along the way. His massive repertoire not only brought the global spotlight on the Indian art scene but it shaped the voice of a nation trying to forge ahead as a rising superpower while fumbling to incorporate its deep-rooted past. In the art world, His work repeatedly broke sales records, eventually being valued at up to $5 million for each piece. Husain was hugely popular beyond the art world too, his work resonating with the Indian mainstream cultural voice.

On June 9, aged 95, Husain passed away in London. He was a national treasure for India yet not welcome in his own homeland. And this became the great irony and tragedy of his incredibly shaky relationship with his country.

Born in 1915 into a Muslim family in Maharashtra, Husain began his artistic journey by moving to Mumbai in 1937 to paint movie billboards. This was also his first tryst with cinema, an art form he returned to much later as a filmmaker. Husain then turned to fine art in the early 1940s, establishing an Indian artistic identity that harmoniously blended Indian and Western styles and ideas. After quickly establishing himself as a prominent artist in India, Husain traveled the world, painting anywhere that inspired him.

In 2000 he produced and directed his first film, Gaja Gamini, an ode to womanhood across cultures featuring his muse and actress Madhuri Dixit. His second (and last) film would be Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities (2004), a semi-autobiographical story about a novelist suffering through writer's block until he meets an enigmatic woman, Meenaxi. The film was his own introspection on his fascination with Dixit in Gaja Gamini and his series of paintings about her. As an artist, photographer, filmmaker and writer, Husain was constantly creating. He also became a nomadic artist, perhaps a state of being that he was destined for until the end of his life.

Husain's work became increasingly controversial over the decades. Or perhaps the religious and nationalist groups became increasingly sensitive. Husain, a non-practicing Muslim, was fascinated by Hindu mythology from a young age. He had read the Hindu holy texts and imbibed their narratives into his art. His many paintings based on Hindu iconography, especially those depicting goddesses in the nude, earned him the ire of particularly sensitive right-wing groups. In an interview with Tehelkain 2008, Husain defended his work stating-

'Nudity, in Hindu culture, is a metaphor for purity. Would I insult that which I feel so close to? I come from the Suleimani community, a sub-sect of the Shias, and we have many affinities with Hindus, including the idea of reincarnation...But it is impossible to discuss all this with those who oppose me. Talk to them about Khajuraho, they will tell you its sculpture was built to encourage population growth and has outgrown its utility!'

Over the years, Husain was slapped with numerous court cases claiming his work was obscene and damaged the cultural traditions of the country. The hypocrisy of these charges, in a country crippled by corruption and vote-bank politics, is another debate entirely. Fortunately for Husain, in 2008 the Supreme Court of India refused to start proceedings against him and his painting 'Bharat Mata' (Mother India, see image above), that was accused of obscenity and disrespecting India. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, voracious opponents of Husain’s work, refused to step down from their stance even after his death. While the Bajrang Dal opposed any suggestions to bring his body back to India for burial, the VHP spokesperson Prakash Sharma compared Husain to Osama bin Laden, stating, “One was doing jihad by the brush and the other by gun."

It was this resentment against him and fear for his life that forced Husain to leave India in 2006 and live the last few years of his life in self-imposed exile. Even the organizers of the largest Indian contemporary art show held in 2009 in New Delhi refused to feature any of his works for fear of violent reactions. Husain was granted Qatari citizenship and continued to travel extensively, except back to India. He spent his summers in London, the city where he passed away and has now been laid to rest.

The true test of a democracy comes when it must deal with starkly differing views or challenging forms of expression. In that sense, there is no perfect democracy, as every nation that embraces freedom of expression also faces the often awkward dilemma of what to do when a fellow citizen enrages a small but powerful group. In M.F. Husain's case, he picked the short straw and his country did little to support him. Of course, he wasn't a completely innocent victim in his troubles - his paintings were provocative - but he was also practicing the right to freedom of expression. Disagreement was perfectly healthy, even Husain agreed, but resorting to violence and personal attacks was not. And if freedom of expression is something a democracy promises for each of its citizens, then Husain's treatment is truly disappointing. And his being hailed now as a national asset becomes hypocritical. So, the real tragedy of it all? One of the most prominent Indians of our time, the one who brought accolades to his country, couldn’t even die an Indian. 

35 Comments

  • tys
    By
    tys
    22.06.11 10:33 AM
    i do not understand how me being nonreligious makes me excluded since my life and my way of life is also being threatened by the religious fanatics...b it hindu or muslim...so u see, iam involved.

    I do not agree with the lets placate the easily sensitive either...be tht muslim or hindu...right now, standing aside, i see no difference between the two..especially when they speak in the same tone

    my enquiry is only one...whts the purpose? If the purpose is to highlight the hypocracy, then i will applaud it...but if it is to instigate and stroke the general feeling of victimization, then it is not productive, not positive....highlite it by all means but stop when u reach tht stage where u become the same...the line is very fine...i hve seen it and hve been its victim.

    So, i hve every rite...infact every living being has the rite...religion is urs ...keep it.

    Btw, how come none of u r actually saying who u r talking abt? Have u wondered abt tht? Whts this talk when u cant even bring urself to address ur concern? Yet u talk abt the govnt hypocracy..

    Is there any muslims out there who can contribute here? i for one wud like to hear and understand ur point of view...as iam sure many others
  • cbcd
    By
    cbcd
    21.06.11 09:30 PM
    tys, I'm sorry I don't quite understand your point. Because something is old it can't be held in esteem? You have advised that don't consider yourself a Hindu. Then, with all due respect, I don't think you have the right to speak for Hindus. Sure, you grew up in a Hindu family but you are not the same. You are in a fairly weak position to dictate or even influence what some Hindus should or shouldn't find offensive given that you don't share the same ideology. The "we, as Hindus" comments you have previously made are, at best, erroneous.

    I don't disagree with your idea that dialogue is a better approach. I also agree that death threats and violence are not appropriate. I do however, strenuously disagree that only members of SOME religions are somehow entitled to exercise legal rights, including the right to express their concerns. As someone who purports not to believe in religion at all, I would think that you should also be on board with such thinking.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    19.06.11 08:43 AM
    I think this is related to the debate that started here...

    http://www.dailypioneer.com/346871/Sterile-debate-over-free-speech.html
  • tys
    By
    tys
    19.06.11 12:22 AM
    becoz cbcd, its an ancient religion...

    it has already passed through all the repressions, possessions, rigidity...

    remember the spread of christianity? recall the horrors committed in its name?...now look around, people can talk about, criticise it , question it, laugh at it, laugh with it...they have a relationship with it..the religion didnt change , its people did...

    i believe this the growing pain of any religion...especially organized religion..it goes through this...this us and them complex...these very same suspicions...these imagined and in some cases very real threats...this desire to engulf everything into it...by whatever means.

    but i think, people will make the difference...they will see...they have to see..until then, we have to try and understand and prevent a regression in our thinking and actions..

    we too have been here...shivites and vishnavites...the cruelties committed in the name of even buddhism..we have had the time to be in something which has been thru a lot...millions have died for us to have this conversation..

    iam against religion...i dont make any claim to be a hindu...i was born into a family that are hindus...so i can speak for its people , and in some cases at its people...somehow, ironically, i seem to have that right...but i cannot speak for another..it will not be heard...thats for another to do.

    perhaps, people will see and even gather courage to openly come forward...and believe me, they are...

    dont give up on people..gods and religions were made by them , for them..they will break it down and rebuild it ...they have in the past and will continue to do so...more will speak...

    it always starts here, cbcd, it starts with people talking...to each other...
  • cbcd
    By
    cbcd
    18.06.11 11:02 PM
    I think it's fair to talk about the test of a democracy in the context of citizens exercising freedom of expression, but I also think it's fair to raise issues of double-standards etc. Firstly, just because one ISN'T offended by some expression doesn't mean that he or she can somehow dictate expressly or by implication that others must therefore also be immune from taking offense. The question then becomes the nature of the response to such offensiveness. To the extent that people are availing themselves of lawful means to object, what is the problem? If the laws are unjust, then change the laws but do not berate people for following them, especially when it appears that one group of people is somehow expected to refrain from exercising such legal rights when others are not in order to demonstrate some sort of higher "tolerance". A theoretical right is meaningless unless one gets to exercise it from time to time.

    I recognize that threatened or actual violent retaliation isn't appropriate. However, if the judicial system allows court cases to arise based on "offensiveness" then I have no problem with any person exercising their legal rights. Rather than chastising such actions as being anti-democratic, I would argue that such citizens are in engaged citizens participating in society, vs. sitting at home passively playing first person shooter games. Again, if you wish to change the laws that allow such rights, fine, but the inability to seek a remedy for offensive messages should apply to all groups equally.

    Finally, I think it is somewhat unfair to summarily dismiss concerns regarding M. Husain's targetted flexibility with only Hindu imagery. Perhaps his muse was only Hinduism. Perhaps those non-Indian comedians and script writers who throw in the usual Indian bashing joke or stereotype aren't as inspired by the other ethnicities or their accents. On the other hand, I think it is perfectly legitimate to ask WHY there seems to be such unique and limited inspiration.
  • JJ
    By
    JJ
    17.06.11 09:12 PM
    Anirban

    Tsk tsk. That's the muslim silent liberal secular majority list that you could come up with ? That too from Bollywood :)). I'll give you one name to rule them all, Dawood Ibrahim.
    Let me write down a small list,
    Mahesh Bhatt (a muslim) and his nephew Emran Hashmi who made a false charge about discrimination by a housing society when the flat owner refused to sell a property.
    Then his son, Rahul Bhatt, an accomplice of Dawood Headley.
    Syed Geelani
    SHahi Imam Bukhaari
    and countless others, I just can't be bothered to write down their names.
    YOur so called liberal seculars are not so seculars when the ball is in the other court.


    And you need everything too literally my friend. Wake up. Stop this self-flagellation and obsession for gaining moral high ground.
  • Really?
    By
    Really?
    17.06.11 07:43 PM
    Also, on a purely numerical scale the plight of 400,000 people is a larger and more serious issue. Surely that should count for something in determining the seriousness and intensity with which an issue is addressed?
  • Really?
    By
    Really?
    17.06.11 07:30 PM
    Well if you are a secular liberal and you pick your battles, at the very least you should have a balnced selection of battles to fight? Otherwise, you are just claiming secular liberalism but fighting the battles you want to - it would be too easy to be biased in that regard while claiming secular liberalism, no?

    Just out of interest, what is your view on the Kashmiri Pandits that have been spoken of, as a secular liberal, of course.
  • Anirban Banerjee
    By
    Anirban Banerjee
    17.06.11 05:38 PM
    Also:-

    Shabana Azmi
    Javed Akhtar
    Naseeruddin Shah
    Salman Rushdie
    Since I was watching a movie, bollywood names popped into my mind. None of the above are eight feet and covered in fur,so I guess the Yeti argument doesnt hold water.

    Also, again, just because "they" didn't raise their voice, or no one raised their voice "then" doesn't mean no one is allowed to raise voice against injustice ever again. At least the "secular liberals" raise their voices at some injustices, as opposed to non-secular, non-liberals whose every move is for personal gain or satisfaction.
  • tys
    By
    tys
    16.06.11 05:21 PM
    allow me to introduce you to :

    -taslima nasreen.
    -M.N.Karassery.

    Iam sure there are more...not yetis...real people...
  • JJ
    By
    JJ
    16.06.11 04:05 PM
    TYS:

    "muslim secular liberal" :- Another Yeti. Everybody knows it's big and strong, but nobody has seen it yet.
  • tys
    By
    tys
    16.06.11 03:46 PM
    @jj: wht u r looking for then, i believe, is a muslim secular liberal...

    U will b surprised how many there r...the ones who stands up against the angst of their own community...

    More will come...jj
  • JJ
    By
    JJ
    16.06.11 11:18 AM
    I wish these "secular liberal" posters would have raised their voices when 4 lakh Hindus were driven out of their ancestral homes in Kashmir by majority Muslims. One muslim painter leaving the country is such a big deal, but killing and exodus of 4 lakh Hindus doesn't even find a small mention. Now when these Kashmiri muslims oppose every move to make the return of Hindus possible, these same "seculars" come forward with full support for intolerant muslims. If this isn't hypocrisy of the highest possible magnitude, I don't know what else is.
  • syed haseeb uddin
    By
    syed haseeb uddin
    15.06.11 10:30 PM
    thanks for sharing your kind information.
  • tys
    By
    tys
    14.06.11 06:37 PM
    iam kinda with anirab on this...we lost the arquement the day we showed intolerance towards art or opinions tht differs from ours by threathening the life of another...here we become no different thn any other religions u seem to hve problems with...

    The comparison ceases to exist. You hve become wht u fought against.

    Perhaps MFH didnt find other religion his muse...as an artist frm india its difficult not to b influenced by hinduism ....or perhaps he figured it will not end up in a fatwa or some such nonsense...but so what?

    Wht did we, as hindus do? We threatened his life and chased him out of the country? We reacted the same way.

    So wheres the arquement here?

    U and i knw tht nudity is not a big offensive part of our hindu culture....ur problem is tht a muslim painted it.

    How different are u?
  • Story
    By
    Story
    14.06.11 04:52 PM
    A friend of mine recently went to Goa and met up with some Christian friends of his wife's family. His wife's family and the Christian friends had known each other since they were kids. The Christians went deliberately out of their way to mention how they were going to church and how differently the "hindus" do things to them. The Christians also served them beef patties! They know that the family is Hindu and generally does not eat beef and one member is a strict vegetarian and they have known this for ages!

    I was amazed to hear about this level of insensitivity. of course, Hindus being as relaxed as they are just brushed it off and carried on - no hard feelings.

    Perhaps someone should explain to these Goans how they came to be Christian in the first place. A Portuguese soldier held a gun to their grandparent's heads and said I will kill you if you don't convert!

    These atrocities are never spoken of but India has undergone many of these effective genocides and atrocities.

    http://hinduvoice.net/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi/archive/nll/20081006015717/
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    14.06.11 10:27 AM
    Whenever a Hindu expresses his objection to something on the basis of his religious sentiment, the mainstream media (and a lot of people on forums like these) immediately brands him as a violent right wing element or their sympathizer (or an internet Hindu!)

    Then they are bombarded with a barrage of questions asking them to explain the actions of a few right wing rogue elements in a very aggressive way like this person is supposed to defend them!

    Even when the objection is raised in a polite and civil manner, the reaction to the objection rarely changes.

    This behavior is not much different from branding every Muslim as a terrorist but only much more subtle. I am not sure if this observation contributes to this debate in anyway but I speak from personal experience.
  • Usual Story
    By
    Usual Story
    13.06.11 06:17 PM
    Ok fair enough. I think we basically agree on the main points here.

    As for colonialism, I think you are right that bearing a grudge is self-defeating and only hurts you at the end of the day so it is much healthier to let it go and move on.

    However, lessons should be learned from the experience. The impoverishment, looting and maltreatment of a nation by a foreign power which considered the populace as beneath them, is clearly not a beneficial experience and should not be repeated. India is still recovering from that, in my opinion.
  • Anirban Banerjee
    By
    Anirban Banerjee
    13.06.11 05:43 PM
    It was not a small omission, it was a major omission that made your comments sound bigoted and hateful in the first place, even though they were not meant to be so.

    No one would have had a problem had people just complained. What happened was so much stronger than that.

    "Yet, when Hindus “dare” to object they are branded as non-secular, right wing, racist." - No they're not. They're branded right wing and non-secular when they drive those who don't like out of a supposedly secular country. Which is what happened here.

    As for undermining things held sacred, if they are so easily undermined, then perhaps that which is held so sacred needs to be reevaluated and reexamined. Why should I care if someone desecrates what I hold sacred? If it is truly sacred, truly beyond reproach, truly "godlike", shouldn't any attempt at desecration fail simply due to the purity of the object concerned?

    As for India being dominated by colonial and Muslim culture, yes, the landmass we know as India today HAS been dominated. But did India even exist before they came? Aren't they the ones who assimilated a hundred princely city-states to a country? Every country has it's history, it's own unique culture. The Indian culture we celebrate today wouldn't even exist today if it wasn't for the colonials and the Muslims, the good and the bad of both worlds. What would exist in its place is something in the realm of conjecture, neither you nor I can really understand what India would be like if we wiped off 400 years of history and started afresh. But to carry a grudge for the rest of our existence is self-defeating and a waste of our energies.

    Disagree, complain all you wan't, I would applaud you for that. But when you continue to complain about an event that resulted in an artist being hounded and forced to leave his country, does Hindus or Indians no service.
  • Usual Story
    By
    Usual Story
    13.06.11 05:20 PM
    Well, if I did not decry those things I certainly do now. My main point is that Hindus should be allowed to complain, just like every other religion. They should not, of course, resort to persecution or violence.

    You have also neatly sidestepped all my other points and are focussing on one small omission that I have made, in your opinion.

    Look, in an ideal world, there would be free speech for all, religious freedom for all etc. I don't think anyone would disagree with that.

    But, as I say, where do you draw the line? When does it become an attempt to undermine your very culture, beliefs and everything you may hold sacred? I think it is a difficult topic with no real concrete answer. As I say, my main point is that part of free speech for all is the right to complain when you feel you have been unjustly maligned. I don't think anyone would disagree with that.
  • Anirban Banerjee
    By
    Anirban Banerjee
    13.06.11 05:04 PM
    "Violence and persecution I am completely against, of course, in any form."

    And yet, in none of your initial comments did you decry the threats of violence and persecution Hussain faced, instead choosing to brand me and others who did do so as "Hindu apologists"

    And at the end of the day, the thugs who drove Hussain out of the country were not punished, but rather Hussain himself. Seems like Hinduism would do well with a few more apologists standing up for what is right, instead of taking offence at every perceived slight. Even if Hussain was wrong in doing what he did, freedom of expression and freedom of speech are too valuable to sacrifice at the altar of religious bigotry.
  • Usual Story
    By
    Usual Story
    13.06.11 04:44 PM
    Obviously, the right to complain should be there. Violence and persecution I am completely against, of course, in any form.

    If you look at the history of India over the last 1000 years or so it has been one of tolerance and acceptance of foreigners, other religions etc and that attitude is something to be proud of, for sure.

    But, at what point does it become making a victim of yourself? At what point do you allow other countries/ religions rule you, desecrate your holy places, loot your natural resources to make themselves rich, subjugate your people, make you hate yourself and try and be like them - this is the unfortunate and dirty story of colonialism which nobody really talks about.

    Clearly, we are not in that situation now, but now wars are fought economically or through the media. The pernicious effect of the media and foreign economic power should not be underestimated.

    India must maintain its tolerance and multi-cultural, secular society for sure - it is a point of pride. But there is no harm in being proud of achievements and standing up and being counted when wrong is done to you. Not in a violent way of course.
  • Anirban Banerjee
    By
    Anirban Banerjee
    13.06.11 04:26 PM
    You are right, there is nothing wrong with complaining. However, complaining is one thing, driving an artist, arguably one of the greatest the nation has produced in the last few years, is what is hate filled.

    See, what happened with Hussain was so much more than complaining, so despicable to people who believe in freedom of expression, that Hindus were not the victims anymore.

    As for sticking up for themselves, where does "a bit" end, really? Is throwing the dissenter out of the country, or should he be murdered? Should war be declared on the nation that supports him, or should planes be flown into their buildings? See, the problem with giving stifling freedom of expression is that once you do it, it's just a matter of degrees.

    Instead of sticking up for religion, why not stick up for individual freedom of expression and liberty? Ideals that are far more civilized than the archaic concepts like religion?
  • Usual Story
    By
    Usual Story
    13.06.11 03:35 PM
    Actually, it seems like you are wilfully trying to make out my statements into hate-filled ones. They are not, I assure you.

    My concern, when I speak of balance, is that there is nothing wrong with Hindus complaining about their deities being shown in an extremely negative light. This is normal, every religion does it, so why not Hindus? I do, believe it or not, disagree with the persecution and hounding of people who do this, though.

    My perspective, from a broader outlook is that Hinduism is somewhat of a wounded religion and has been for some time. India itself is a wounded country ravaged by the effects of colonialism (both Christian and Muslim) for one thousand years. Therefore, when I talk of balance I mean in the sense that Hinduism has every right to stick up for itself, within reason of course, as every other religion has the right to stick up for themselves.
  • Anirban Banerjee
    By
    Anirban Banerjee
    13.06.11 03:00 PM
    To insinuate that balance has been off-kilter because "they" are violent and "we" are not, and that "being offended" is a good enough reason to persecute someone because other communities would do the same sounds like hate to me.

    Hate doesn't always mean taking up a machete and chopping up the blasphemers. Hating freedom of expression because the majority is offended by the sentiment is also hate.
  • Usual Story
    By
    Usual Story
    13.06.11 12:33 PM
    Usual story is actually a clever anagram of my real name - see if you can work it out.

    Now I am offended. I do not and never have spewn hate. I merely aim to redress a balance that has been out of kilter for too long.

    Since the battle appears to be a losing one, even I may give up. I just hope I have given people something to think about.

    Peace out (for real this time)!
  • Anirban Banerjee
    By
    Anirban Banerjee
    13.06.11 11:41 AM
    @Jayanth: To claim the debate didn't happen is perhaps a tad extreme. The lack of electronic media and a universal platform like the internet ensured the debate was never formalized, but in little pockets it did happen.

    And finally, instances of previous injustice should be no reason to let injustice happen again. Innocent people have been incarcerated before, that doesn't make it OK if it happens again. Of course moral policing should be treated the same way, but every time they should be opposed anew, regardless of what has happened before.

    @UsualStory (if that is indeed your real name). Of course anyone can get offended. Religious wingnuts have made getting offended into a full time profession. But being offended should not dictate national policy. I for example am offended by the delicious irony in your comment of spewing hate and ending with a "Peace Out". But I don't think you should be thrown out of a country for it.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    13.06.11 09:35 AM
    @Anirban: The politics of competitively taking offense aside, don't you think that the fact that this debate did not even happen when Salman Rushdie's book was banned shows an essential hypocrisy?

    I am not advocating both works of art being banned, I am rather advocating that all kinds of moral policing ought to be treated the same way.
  • Usual Story
    By
    Usual Story
    13.06.11 01:24 AM
    Blah Blah Blah - and another hindu apologist. Sorry that Hindus might actually have an opinion about something and get offended, how can that possibly be the case?

    One day, you people will wake up - I just hope it's not too late.

    Peace Out.
  • Anirban
    By
    Anirban
    12.06.11 10:54 PM
    Ooooooh the usual arguments crawl out of the woodwork.
    First claim Hindus are more "tolerant"
    Then ask what would have happened had Hussain painted Mohammed or Christ in the nude.
    Well, in those cases, he probably would have received death threats. He probably would have been killed. But just because the Hindu morons and goons aren't as moronic or thuggish as the others does not mean that they are not moronic or thuggish.
    There is NO double standard here. You curb someones freedom of expression, you don't get to play the tolerant, secular, forward-thinking card. Just because the reaction of the "other" religious nuts would have been stronger does not legitimize the way Hussain was treated by the Hindu wingnuts.
  • Usual story
    By
    Usual story
    12.06.11 04:59 PM
    It's the usual story. People do take advantage of the relative tolerance of the Hindu religion. They always have done. Just think of the uproar if he had painted nude, derogatory and sexually provocative pictures of Christ or Mohammed.

    Yet, when Hindus "dare" to object they are branded as non-secular, right wing, racist. Give me a break. You can't have a double standard like that, it is illogical. Either you lighten up or you let Hindus get a little mad about it. Don't play that allegedly sophisticated argument that it is all about these right wing nutcases.

    And of course, the icing on the cake is you get a Hindu to argue the case for the people who are abusing hinduism!

    If it wasn't so sad it would be hilarious!
  • Matheikal
    By
    Matheikal
    12.06.11 04:52 PM
    I don't think the religious sentiments of Indians are so feeble as to be ruptured by some paintings whose meaning could not be deciphered by majority of people. Just like many other things in India (eg. the Babri masjid) Husain too became a political tool. He was simply used by some Right-wing politicians and their chelas for shamless political benefits. This is the ultimate weapon of the unimaginative and univentive people.
  • JJ
    By
    JJ
    12.06.11 01:53 PM
    I can't help but laugh out on his apologists. I'm not a practising Hindu and I was simply surprised by the brouhaha about the paintings, before I saw all of them. But if somebody thinks that nudity and sexually suggestive paintings of Hindu deities signify purity, then like you I also expected that he paint the purity of Muslim characters in the same way. The fact that he painted only Hindu figures while leaving out Muslim makes it quite clear that he wanted only cheap publicity and controversy. Painting muslim figures would have brought him real pain. A fact he knew and used to his advantage.
  • Chand Nair
    By
    Chand Nair
    12.06.11 09:44 AM
    Point well taken Jayanth...but one hopes that Indian Secularism and openness of religious freedom don't get hijacked by reigious rightwing sentiments...."an eye for an eye only makes everyone blind"
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    12.06.11 09:23 AM
    It is true that the government did very little to support him. It is also very unfortunate that the RSS and VHP are not capable of having an adult conversation about anything and have resorted to vandalism.

    But M. F. Hussain should share some of the blame too for what happened. Although I personally never took offense to his paintings, I can see why people could get offended by it.

    Nudity in Hindu art has been accepted and even embraced. But even I felt that drawing a painting of a nude Sita sitting in the lap of nude Ravana or Goddess Durga mating with a Tiger is stretching it too far, especially for a country which was the first to ban Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses for being offensive to Muslim sentiments!

    Also some people have noted that the great painter has never drew any Muslim nude which is probably due to a fear of backlash from the Muslim community.

    This did not help his case because it gave the perception that he was merely exploiting the relative tolerance of the Hindu community.

    I would say the government has given M. F Hussain the same brand of justice Salman Rushdie got for his Satanic Verses.

    The liberals in the country are being hypocritical when they cite M. F Hussain's case a test for our democracy and our freedom of expression while conveniently not bringing up Satanic Verses at all.

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