Two Easy Steps for MF Husain,

via Dr Vijaya Rajiva published on February 27, 2010

Painter MF Husain has been granted Qatar citizenship , but he is still unable to return to India for reasons known only to himself. Shri Mohan Bhagawat, leader of the RSS has publicly stated that Husain can live anywhere in India as long as he does not hurt the sentiments of Hindus. As is well known the artist had drawn scurrilous paintings of Hindu goddesses .

In the opinion of this writer there are two easy steps that Husain can take if he is serious about returning to India. The first is to make a full public apology to Hindus and the second is to start immediately a painting that shows the Goddess Durga slaying the dragon of Terrorism.

He can model himself on the Pallava rock cut sculpture of Durga as Mahisa Mardini, the Slayer of the demon Mahisha. This magnificent mural cut in rock can be seen at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. He is advised to visit the Shore Temple which has been declared a world heritage site. There, in the ambience of the Bay of Bengal and the rock cut sculpture he might begin to get an understanding of his country’s ancient past and the Hindu ethos of several thousand years. It might prove to be an inspirational event and a turning point in his life. Durga can be relentless in the pursuit of enemies, but she is also compassionate and forgiving.

This would be a benign and cathartic experience for the artist who has for reasons best known to him self joined the ranks of avante garde writers who have made a career(and commercial profit)of writing scurrilous material about Hindu gods, goddesses and saints. The most recent offenders have been Wendy Donniger, author of The Hindus: An Alternative History. Also, Jeffrey Kripal who has attacked the most saintly of saints in the Hindu calendar, Bhagvan Ramakrishna, the 19th century Bengali saint.

Husain’s motives will always remain unclear. Suffice it to say that it is curious that he a Muslim should wantonly choose to depict Hindu goddesses in a scurrilous fashion.Was he looking for publicity ?His many explanations do not seriously stand scrutiny, as for instance that in Hindusim, nudity is a sign of purity. He said this as late as the post 26/11 attack during an exhibition in London. Many people have pointed out and rightly so, that in an earlier painting, he had shown three people, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and Mao Tse Tung clothed, while the fourth figure Hitler is shown naked.

When asked why, he is reported to have said that he hated Hitler and wanted to humiliate him !

Which will it be Mr. Husain ? Nudity as a sign of purity or as a sign of your hatred? You cannot have it both ways. At any rate it was not merely showing Hindu goddesses naked, but also in compromising scenes and postures that evoked anger.

The question of freedom of artistic expression is a topic that has been endlessly debated and John Stuart Mill, the great advocate of individual liberties, has clearly stated that there are limits to freedom of expression. Your freedom to move your hand ends where the other man’s jaw begins ! At this stage it has become a tired debate with all the arguments having been hashed and rehashed. Any adult can see the force of Mill’s arguments about the limits of liberty.

Today, the debate has entered the controversial realm of hate literature. Wilfully,knowingly offending the sentiments of a community, can be interpreted as the expression of hate literature.

Neverthless, as this writer has suggested, the most creative way out for Mr.Husain is to draw the picture of Durga slaying the dragon of Terrorism. And he could entitle the painting Vande Mataram !

Even the orthodox mullahs and maulvis of Indian cannot complain, since Husain is not worshipping Durga. Shortly after the 26/11 attack he painted Bharat Mata, showing her as a fully dressed woman, and being attacked by a monster. This is an interesting evolution in his thinking, but it still depicts Bharat Mata as a passive victim of violence.

The new painting would suggest an active Bharat Mata defeating the evil of Terrorism.

(The writer taught Political Philosophy at a Canadian university)

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