Hussain must not get away

via A Surya Prakash - Daily Pioneer published on March 25, 2010

Maqbool Fida Hussain has always been a hero for the pseudo-secular crowd in India. That is why sections of the English media are aghast at his decision to migrate to Qatar and have been blaming Hindus for “hounding him”. Since some television anchors have been screaming their heads off over Hussain’s decision to give up his Indian nationality but are unwilling to tell the people the truth about his artistic licence, the time has come to place some cold — or shall we call it ‘hot’ — facts on the table.

What has prompted Hussain to flee India? Mr Prafull Goradia and Mr KR Phanda, the authors of Anti-Hindus, published in 2003, provide us some valuable clues and answer this question substantially. This book not only reproduces a Press release issued by Mr DP Sinha of Sanskar Bharati but also photographs of some of the most repulsive paintings of Hussain. The Press release is indeed a comprehensive charge-sheet against the painter, because it provides a graphic description of eight of Hussain’s paintings — each more vulgar and reprehensible than the other.

Here is the list of the eight objectionable paintings and the accusations made by the organisation. ‘Durga’, in which the goddess is shown in sexual union with a tiger. ‘Rescuing Sita’, in which the artist shows a naked Sita astride a naked Hanuman’s tail — “Hanuman’s tail as a phallic symbol crosses all limits of decency.” Lord Vishnu is generally painted with four hands holding a shankh, a padma, a gada and a chakra, but the hands of Vishnu are shown as amputated and his legs have been cut off — a maimed, mutilated and exhausted Vishnu reclines on his spouse Lakshmi and his vahan Garuda. “Should the cutting of hands and legs of Vishnu be regarded as creative freedom or deliberate affront to Hindu sensibility?” Saraswati, whom Hindus regard as a goddess draped in a white and pure garment (ya shubhra vastravruta) is also shown naked. Goddess Lakshmi is shown naked and perched on the head of Ganesh, “a posture highlighting unmasked sexuality”.

Hussain’s ‘Hanuman-V’ shows a three-faced Hanuman and a nude couple — “The identity of the woman is not in doubt. The erect genital of Hanuman is bent in the direction of the female. The obscenity is too obvious.” Another painting, ‘Hanuman -13’, shows a stark naked ‘Sita’ sitting on the thigh of an equally naked ‘Ravan’, while a naked Hanuman is shown attacking the latter. In ‘George Washington and Arjun on the Chariot’ Washington replaces Lord Krishna in the famous chariot scene from the Mahabharat! Hussain replaces Lord Krishna with Washington because “in his eyes Lord Krishna is no god and stands denigrated and reduced to the level of a mere human being — George Washington”.

But, is Hussain’s iconoclasm uniform? Far from it. Hussain is the very epitome of reverence when it comes to non-Hindu subjects. He paints Fatima, Prophet Mohammed’s daughter, as “the embodiment of serenity and grace” and fully clothed. The artist takes no liberties here. He takes no liberties also while painting his daughter and mother. His painting of Mother Teresa is “an outstanding piece of art” which brings out the compassion of the Mother, says Mr Sinha. If this be so, why does he depict Hindu gods and goddesses in such a repulsive manner? The answer lies in yet another painting — a panel depicting Einstein, Gandhi, Mao Tse Tung and Hitler, in which only Hitler is naked. Can we then conclude that characters about whom Hussain feels repugnant are depicted in the nude by him?

While reproducing these obnoxious “works of art” and the detailed Press release by Sanskar Bharati, Mr Goradia and Mr Phanda describe Hussain as a “sexually perverse person”. The photographs of these paintings originally appeared in a book that was designed by Hussain himself. The authors add three more to the eight accusations made by Mr Sinha. These relate to paintings which show a bull copulating with Parvati while Shankar looks on; a naked Hanuman with his genitals pointing towards a woman; and a naked Krishna with his feet and hands cut-off. The authors draw the distinction between nudity, pornography and perversity: “When pornography or perversity embroils deities, it is sacrilegious.”

As Mr Goradia and Mr Phanda point out, it is simply not possible to give him the benefit of doubt. The panel portraying Einstein, Gandhi, Mao Tse Tung and Hitler is the clincher, they say. The first three have clothes on but Hitler is naked. “Does that mean that he painted in the nude all those he hated? … Can any self-respecting Hindu forgive Maqbool Fida Hussain?” they ask.

The answer is obviously a big ‘No’. So, what do Hindu citizens who feel offended by Hussain’s art do? Barring a few vandals who took the law in their hands and disrupted a couple of the artist’s exhibitions, the reaction of the large mass of Hindus was what it ought to be in a democracy. They moved courts and lodged criminal complaints against the artist. They drew on the Indian Penal Code that prohibits citizens from offending the religious sensibilities of other citizens.

There were no death threats or absurd pronouncements like the Muslim politician in Uttar Pradesh who, not very long ago, offered a prize of Rs 51 crore for the head of the Danish cartoonist accused of lampooning Prophet Mohammed. Yet, if you go by the shrill posturing of some television anchors, the Hindus deserve no marks for this lawful, democratic response to the worst form of blasphemy. If this pseudo-secular fringe is to be believed, Hindus deserve to be condemned for “hounding” Hussain with court cases.

Whatever Hussain’s friends and admirers may say, the truth is that after taking such obnoxious liberties with Hindu sentiments, he became a fugitive from the law. He has been on the run ever since the cases were filed. Many Hindus who are aware of Hussain’s vile art rightly see him as a ‘Qatarnak’ painter. So, one supposes that Qatar was the logical destination for him!

But, if we value our secular traditions, we must not let him go. The long arm of the law must reach Qatar. We should seek his extradition and prosecute him for hurting the religious sentiments of 800 million citizens.

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