Should MF Husein be forgiven ?

via Dr. Vijaya Rajiva published on January 22, 2011

There has been an attempt to revive the art work of MF Husein before the Indian viewing public. The country is caught in the throes of the various scams and rising prices so that the middle classes are embroiled in their economic problems. And the clientele who patronize art shows are well heeled and need not worry about the economy. In the middle of all this there is clearly an attempt to rehabilitate MF Hussein in the country.A recent prominent art gallery the Indian Art centre in New Delhi opened an exhibition of his paintings. CNNIBN ran a program ‘Is it unfair to ostracise MF Husein?’

The present writer believes that he should be forgiven, but only with certain conditions.
Afterall, his crime against his mother country, seems unforgiveable. Whatever the motley crew of secularists/liberals/leftists/avante gardists may say, India is a predominantly Hindu country. This is not only by virtue of the demographics and therefore does not involved the ‘majoritarianism’ that the above group constantly harp on.

India, is indelibly Hindu, by virtue of its long civilisational history. MF Husein insulted this civilization by his atrocious tasteless paintings depicting Hindu gods and goddesses in various sexual poses, even engaged in bestiality , showing Goddess Durga copulating with the tiger. In the above mentioned program artist Anjoli Ela Menon, repeated the excuse one heard during the controversy that this was a feature of ancient Hindu art. Nonsense ! Either she does not know anything about Hindu art or she is prevaricating. Temple sculpture such as that found in Khajuraho depicts mortals. Gods and goddesses are not so depicted. Ms Menon needs to seriously study Hindu art.

Her elitist cruel indifference to the sentiments of millions of hardworking Hindus who worship their gods and goddesses speaks to her mindset and of those who defend the paintings. As for the well rehearsed argument about freedom of artistic expression who are they fooling ? The great libertarian John Stuart Mill who pleaded for individual liberties, clearly explained that there is no such thing as unrestricted individual freedoms. One’s freedom to move one’s hand around will end when it encounters the other man’s jaw !

The ‘beautiful people’ then should pay heed to their own sources of inspiration and guidance that comes periodically from the West. And who else should guide them but their patron saint John Stuart Mill ?

As for MF himself his attempt to get out of the controversy is disingenuous. Nudity he said, stood for purity in Hindu art . But the more relevant question is : what did it stand for in HIS mind ?

In an earlier painting showing 4 males, Winston Churchill, Mao tse Tung, Gandhi and Hitler, the figures are clothed except for Hitler who is naked. When asked why Husein replied that he hated Hitler and wanted to humiliate him ! This statement is revealing and is a clear indication that MF wanted to insult Hindus. His dissemblings and posings do not convince.Bestiality is the newest genre in art in the West,observed a commentator. MF and his acolytes are simply using this trend to insult Hindus and their faith.

Some Indian journalists and even an historian naively remarked that well if one doesn’t like the painting don’t look at them !

Nalin Kohli showed admirable restraint in his criticism both of Anjoli Ela Sen and MF Husein.He pointed out that MF was trying to depict Hinduism which he does not understand and that perhaps he should try to paint Muslim themes since he is familiar with that religion (CNN IBN program).

This brings the present writer to the question: should Hindu India forgive MF ? He committed a crime against the very mother country that he now claims he is longing to return to. He is no longer an Indian citizen having accepted Qatari citizenship. He is ofcourse, an old man now, about 92. And yet should one allow this factor alone to influence one’s judgment? Years ago, when the criminal Chilean dictator Pinochet was shown in his dotage, some viewers were moved by his age and physical condition.

The criterion should not be age. No attempt is being made to compare Husein with the dictator. Only the question of age related judgments is sought to be clarified.

What are the conditions under which Hindus should forgive this man?

1.That he destroy the offensive paintings as evidence of genuine remorse. Afterall, he has amassed wealth from his other paintings. He is no destitute artist !

2.That he promises never again to insult the religion of his mother country.

3.If he wants to paint religious themes he sticks to the religion he understands best, his own religion of Islam. Most likely he would not want to venture too audaciously there or into Christianity, since he knows what to expect as a result of his adventurousness.

4.He immediately start a series of paintings showing Goddess Durga on a lion/tiger destroying the demon of Terrorism. He could model himself on the many beautiful Hindu sculptures on Durga as Mahisamardini. The one that comes to mind is the ethereal one in Mahabalipuram, South India, in the Shore Temples (done during the Pallava period).

There is one further step he could take that would wash away his crime. He could voluntarily undertake some sort of shuddhi ceremony. This suggestion is going to elicit howls of dissent from the ‘beautiful people.’ Neverthless, it is a practical suggestion which will remove the odium of his actions and presence in the minds of the Hindu population.

The shuddhi ceremony need not require his reconversion to Hinduism (since his ancestors were originally Hindus who had converted to Islam). He can continue to be a Muslim, but he would have indicated his genuine remorse and his resolve not to spit on the mother country. Needless to say, Husein should voluntarity present himself for this ceremony.

The ceremony can be a simple one : sprinkling him with some water from the sacred Ganges or any other sacred Hindu river; the chanting of Sanskrit hymns which evoke the
blessings of the Devas. This is what our Vedic ancestors would have wanted. The old man can be cleansed by this simple act of forgiveness for his crimes against the Hindu community. Some of the legal cases will probably continue, but his conscience will be clear.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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