THE law may be an ass, but it is certainly a very secular ass. So eight years after M.F. Hussain drew lewd sketches of the Hindu goddesses?Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga (but at the same time a very demure one of Prophet Mohammad”s favourite wife Ayesha), the Delhi High Court has quashed all eight criminal complaints against him of having outraged the religious sentiments of Hindus. Serve the Hindus right! They should have known that in secular India all men are equal, but Muslims are more equal than Hindus. That the learned judge who did the quashing had to take recourse to a technicality to establish this unequalled equality is besides the point. This tremendous technicality was that the mandatory requirement of prior sanction under Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code to proceed against any person for such an offence was not fulfilled.
In other words, no prosecution was possible. And where there is no prosecution, there can be no punishment, right? And if there is no punishment, how could there have been a crime? So Hussain is innocent, and Hussain walks free. Long live freedom?the freedom to commit a crime without fearing the punishment. Not that this dazzling three-in-one combination of Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan does not have a sound defence against Hindus of unsound mind.
In fact, he had a stunning series of defences. First, he stated in his petition before the High Court that ?the pictures are just imaginary creations of an artist of some recognition in terms of national honour?. Secondly, the sketches had never been exhibited at any exhibition. Thirdly, Hussain said he had no intention to outrage the sensitivity of any community, and had immediately issued a public apology after the incident. And fourthly, of course, the accusers had ignored an all-important mandatory requirement, in the process dumping the due process of law, and so he deserved the protection of law against justice.
Well, now, what can Satiricus say? He has to admit Hussain has been absolved by unassailable arguments, and the ends of law have been served. Whether the ends of justice have been served, Satiricus does not know. He only knows he has no legal right to be outraged by a near-nude Saraswati drawn by a shining light of ´shining´ secular India?for what is our secularism for, if not for officially sanctioned scurrility? On the other hand, how can anything official be scurrilous? Oh, well, it seems the many mysteries of secularism are beyond Satiricus”s communal ken. So he will simply say that when Hussain stripped Saraswati (and put all her clothes on Ayesha) he was rendering such signal service to secularism that he merited a hat-trick of Padma awards. Furthermore, when Satiricus dusted up his degree in Law and examined all arguments of Hussain one by one, he could not but admit that each one of them was sound enough to silence the communal calumny heaped on him by horrid Hindus. For starters, Hussain argued that his wretched revilers had no reason to raise such a ruckus over his pictures, because they were, after all, ?just imaginary creations of an artist?. How true!
Sensible Satiricus quite sees that Hussain could only imagine Saraswati, because neither had the Goddess spared the time to pose for him in person, nor had she been considerate enough to mail him her photograph. What then could the poor painter do? And if there are communal cusses who would like to know how Hussain imagined a Saraswati who was nearly naked but an Ayesha who was so fully clothed that even her face could not be seen, Satiricus must tell them to shut up and be silent and secular.
The next argument is still more unassailable. Hussain has proudly pointed out that these dirty pictures of Hindu goddesses were not just imaginary creations of any artist, but ?of an artist of some recognition in terms of national honour?. Well, now, what do you know? Here Hussain is enunciating a precious principle of jurisprudence that is universally practised but never acknowledged?a crime is a crime depending upon who commits it. If a nonentity like Satiricus commits a crime, he is in for punishment. But if a person of recognition and status, who has received national honour?or three national honours?commits it, the law must learnedly expound on how it is above penalty.
And as for ´national honours´, don”t we know how the law is diligently dragging its feet in the case of a nationally honoured Bharat Ratna who, according to published newspaper reports, had a secret Swiss stash of a cool five thousand crore rupees? Next, Hussain said he has always respected the sentiments of every section of the society. Ah, how stupid Satiricus lives and learns. He learns from Hussain that Hindus, who make up 85 per cent of the Indian society, are just a section of the society. The ignoramus that he is, he thought it was the other way round, and it was the 12 per cent Muslims who were only a section of the Indian society, with which Hindus were numerically coterminous.
The next delightful defence is that these sketches, bordering on pornography, were never publicly displayed. That is clearly clinching proof of Hussain”s artistic innocence?apart from a daft definition of culture that says ?culture is what you do when you are alone?.
In the end Hussain says he had immediately issued a public apology. Now Satiricus is admittedly, frightfully forgetful, but he recalls that Hussain was in England at the time, and his ´immediate´ apology was as leisurely as any government file marked ´immediate´. Finally, the funniest part?the apology itself. It reminded?and still reminds?Satiricus of that famous tongue-in-cheek Quaker prayer??Oh God, if there be a God, forgive me my sins, if there be sins.? Were Hindus outraged? Hussain does not know. But if (and only if) they were?sorry. Case closed. Secularism saved. In Hindus versus Hussain, Hindus lose, and Hussain wins one Padma after another.
Hussain could only imagine Saraswati, because neither had the Goddess spared the time to pose for him in person, nor had she been considerate enough to mail him her photograph.