Indian artist M.F. Husain brought two of his nude Hindu Deities? paintings to London for an exhibition at the Asia House. The Hindu Human Rights group protested the exhibition of the paintings and the Asia House decided not to exhibit them. Then various reports came in the media as follows, which are quoted below in parts, but with a comment from the Hindu Council (HC) UK.
Lord Meghnand Desai, ?In my view the objection to Husain is not the so-called obscenity of his paintings, it is because he is a Muslim. Hindu Goddesses can be seen in a variety of poses which many may find erotic in the temples of Khajuraho and Tirupati and many others.? HC UK: There are no temples of worship where nudity is shown; the Kamasutra temples attempt to spiritualise the human action of sexuality, which does not extend to the higher sphere of Deities.
Nick Cohen of the Observer wrote, ?Yet again we cave into religious bigots, and this time they are Hindus? was the title of the story, which The Week also ran.
Certain academics, including many Hindus, asked for the exhibition to be re-instated, ?Hinduism has never possessed a concept of censorship of the kind that these authoritarian groups demand and we urge Asia House to reopen this exhibition.? HC UK: In 2003 when a Hindu deity was damaged by a Christian zealot the worshippers there were in tears and we believe that an exhibition of such paintings will hurt the ordinary Hindu in the same way.
Yasmin Alibhai Brown also wrote in the evening Standard, ?Hindu fundamentalism is rarely addressed in the UK; British ?charities? are channelling funds to Fascistic Hindu Indian leaders who proclaim a ?Vedic Aryan? identity and admire Hitler.The fanatics are already powerful enough here to close down an exhibition and hound a talented and deeply civilised artist?yet they are indulged or ignored.? HC UK: In the last funding round that we are aware of, the Hindus received ?0.25m out of a total ?7m, i.e., a three per cent of the total. British Hindus condemn Hitler.
The above intellectuals and journalists have sought to use this unfortunate episode to make divisions among the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish communities in the UK.
Jay Lakhani and Dr Priyamvada Gopal interview on the Sunday programme at Rado 4: The interview can be heard by clicking the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/sunday/index.shtml, and a statement from Jay Lakhani, who is also the Director for Education at Hindu Council UK, is produced below.
Sanctity of religions
?This morning I was invited to go on Radio 4 to discuss the controversial Husain exhibition that was called off in London. I had a great deal to say but the time allocated to me within the discussion format was 2 minutes out of a 4 minute slot. I did my best. Let me give you some background to this issue that concerns the Hindus.
?A painter called Husain has been drawing the popular Hindu deities (Seeta, Lakshmi, Saraswati) in the nude and often shows them copulating with animals. He was holding an exhibition of some of his paintings in London. If the Hindus were not to stand up and protest then I would think that something is very seriously wrong with the Hindus. A small group of British born Hindu youngsters had planned a peaceful protest. Before the protest could be held someone had gone into the gallery and vandalised two of the paintings so the exhibition was called off. As soon as this happened, a bunch of Hindus-in-name including Lord Desai, jumped on the bandwagon of condemning these Hindu youngsters. 30 or so other academics with Hindu names also signed a petition in the Guardian newspaper condemning these youngsters as responsible for closing down an art exhibition which meant that artistic expression had suffered.
?BBC had invited these youngsters to participate in a debate on the Sunday programme. One of them had to debate this issue with a lecturer from Cambridge University. The youngsters requested that I speak on their behalf so I participated. I am very furious at these Hindus-in-name academics including Lord Desai. These secular westernised Hindus claim to represent Hindu view, and yet every Hindu organisation I talked to prior to the programme including all the main temple bodies have condemned them. My short response on the programme was: ?Just as an artist has freedom to express his art, the Hindus have full right to express their displeasure of such art through peaceful protest. They do not have to resort to violence or vandalism as the weapon of non-violent protest is good enough. Don'tforget it demolished the British empire.?
?What I wanted to add (but did not get a chance to say) was that art in the head of the artist may enjoy full freedom of expression but when it hits the canvas it has already entered a contextual realm and has to work within the acceptable framework of that realm. Showing Jesus in nappies or prophet of Islam in cartoon or a Gurudwara as a den of sin is certainly violating some such framework. The Science lobby is becoming very aware that science can be both used or misused by mankind and hence due care must be taken in its invocation but the Art lobby seems to think that it is free of any such responsibilities. Art like Science can elevate or denigrate mankind and needs to be invoked in a responsible manner. Convincing Westernised Oriental Gentleman like Lord Desai may not be easy but then the Hindus have seen off far worse brand of secularists in the past.?
(Vivekananda Centre London, www.hinducounciluk.org)