By: B Shantanu
June 05, 2006
expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer
is at the bottom.
Art and Culture of a Debased Society
M F Hussain perverse paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses
Award for MF Hussain is national insult
MF Hussain deserves Ravi Varma Award?
"M K Hussen" of Tamilnadu
MF Husain paintings,
"Artistic Freedom", sense of dejavu
(As I write this, breaking
news from London: The Husain exhibition is being cancelled by the
organisers for “security reasons”.)
this month (May ’06), the Indian High Commissioner to UK, H.E. Kamalesh
an exhibition of paintings by MF Husain in London and remarked that
the painter was the greatest modern Indian artist.
I do not personally understand Husain’s art, I can imagine that he has
some admirers. But to call this artist - who has over the years (for more
than 2 decades) systematically attempted to denigrate a multitude of Hindu
deities, symbols and images – as the “greatest modern Indian artist” is a
little over the top.
the same painter against whom a notice has been issued by the High Court
in Mumbai, against whom a case is pending in Indore and whose paintings
are the subject of a Law Ministry advisory which is so detailed that state
governments can (if they so wish) treat it as a complaint and take action
why blame the High Commissioner when our entire intelligentsia considers
Husain’s work as high-quality art and something to be proud of?
raised the issue of Husain’s apparent contempt for the feelings and
sensitivities of Hindus in the practise of his “art”
with some “liberal” friends, the comments I got were similar and usually
along the lines of:
have become very intolerant in the recent past…”
gods and goddesses have been routinely depicted in Indian art and
architecture e.g. Khajuraho”
reaction is partly because of the controversy surrounding the Danish
have to defend an artists’ freedom to depict the world (and express it)
the way he/she sees it
analyze these points one-by-one.
first argument, viz.
have become very intolerant in the recent past…”
is in the best traditions of the pseudo-liberal intelligentsia that
dominate our national media. To these commentators, no insult is
provocation enough and since the essence of Hinduism is “tolerance”, we
should forgive (and forget) such insults – because hasn’t Hinduism
survived many such onslaughts in the past?
of these commentators talk about the rising “intolerance” around us
(witness the Danish cartoon controversy) and none of them have any
alternative suggestions for how else to deal with such gratuitous acts of
contempt. For them, the solution is simple – tolerate and forget.
second line of defense appears slightly more sophisticated but is
equally specious. Hindu Gods and Goddesses
have not routinely been painted in the nude in the past. The Khajuraho
sculptures that these sophists refer to are not those of Gods and
Goddesses but of courtiers, courtesans, royals and ordinary mortals.
The third point is really not a counter-point at all but is a weak
attempt at explaining away the reaction to Husain’s art as an “aberration”
on the part of the “tolerant” Hindu who has been led astray because of the
rising tide of intolerance around him/her.
Note the subtle connection between points 1 and 3 – both make a virtue of
“tolerance” and both elevate it to the “essence” of Hinduism. Whether
Hindus have become "more" intolerant than before or not is open to debate
but one must bear in mind that we do not live in a vacuum and what we see
around us, does affect us.
course, Shri Husain is not unaware of these developments and earlier this
apologised for painting “Bharatmata” in the nude and also promised the
painting from a charity auction (but stopped short of saying that he will
regards the fourth point regarding “artistic freedom”, I would
simply reproduce an excerpt from “Encirclement From Within” by N S Rajaram
in Mar ‘03
is another example. When some Hindu groups objected to M.F. Husain for
painting Hindu goddesses in the nude, the secular intellectuals including
the media defended his ‘artistic freedom’ do as he wished. But in 2002, a
newspaper office in Bangalore was vandalized by a Muslim mob for
publishing a perfectly innocent cartoon of Prophet Muhammad in its
children’s section. And the newspaper apologized to the attackers. Imagine
the victim apologizing to the assailants! Other papers in Bangalore—and at
other places—have also apologized on similar occasions. So ‘artistic
freedom’ means freedom to offend Hindu sensibilities only!”
amazing thing is that Husain has been doing the “I am sorry, I was wrong”
act for more than ten years – while continuing to add to his repertoire of
nude images and paintings.
In Jan’97 (yes, that is more than 9 years ago), Husain
was interrogated by the police in connection with the controversy over his
nude painting of Goddess Saraswati. Earlier in ’96, the Mumbai city branch
of CID had actually registered cases against Shri Husain under Section 295
A and 153 A of the Indian Penal Code. The charge was that Shri Husain had
outraged religious feelings and hurt public sensitivities.
did Husain do? He issued a written statement denying any “intention” to
hurt religious feelings (of course) and apologised if he had hurt anyone’s
sentiments – “Oops, I am sorry, I was wrong”.
forward to Feb 2006 – and the BBC online story, “Indian painter sorry for
nude art” - Déjà vu, anyone?
Now, as “tolerant” and “forgiving” Hindus, we will of
course forget this apology too and move on – until the next affront hits
us in the face – and there will another round of apologies, protests and
then, please read a brilliant and biting piece on Shri Husain by RBL Nigam,
Husain: The Hindu Hater”
(May 13 ’06)…and to really make a difference, join the protest online at
Send your views to author
See “Red Alert on MF Husain”, Hindustan Times, Aloke Tikku, May 5, ’06
(excerpts below) “The Home Ministry’s advisory follows concerns
backed by intelligence reports that Husain's Bharatmata and other
controversial paintings of Hindu goddesses can spark communal trouble.
A case against him is already pending in an Indore court….The state
police can treat the Home Ministry’s report as a complaint the
accompanying documents are said to be quite detailed and proceed
against Husain. But it is a call the state governments will have to
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