Husain claims that he paints Hindu Gods in nude because nudity stands for purity. Let him then paint Muslim icons in nude. He would never dare to utter a word or draw a caricature that may even remotely hurt Muslim sentiments as he is well aware of the dire consequences that would visit him if he does so. His abandoning India is good riddance for peace loving Indians and not a national shame as the “liberal” crowd would like us to believe. Let him enjoy the “freedom” and luxuries offered to him in Qatar. THE media brigade’s obsession with MF Husain, the notorious painter who relishes hurting Hindu sentiments by painting Hindu icons in nude and in disgraceful positions, refuses to die down even after he shamelessly accepted Qatari citizenship and returned his Indian passport to our ambassador in Doha. Pseudo-liberals mourn the loss of their “greatest” painter and endlessly raise irrelevant and fake concerns to obfuscate the real issue namely his misconduct in deeply hurting Hindu sentiments under the garb of artistic license. The charge that Hindus hounded him out of the country leaving him with no option but to first live in exile and now to give up his Indian citizenship is utterly false and baseless. No one threatened his life and no one announced any reward for beheading him as was the case with Danish cartoonist. He has accepted Qatar’s citizenship not because it would give him more artistic freedom as claimed by our “liberals”.
What a joke! He opted for a non-liberal, non-democratic Islamic country simply because of material comforts offered by the Sheikh. He has himself made a confession in this regard and told an Indian journalist sympathetic to him that friendly tax regime and other facilities offered by the rulers made Qatar his natural choice. It is none of our “liberals” concern that the painter had pushed the boundaries of tolerance by relentlessly insulting Hindu Gods and icons and that he is a fugitive from law who needs to be brought to justice.
They overlook the stark reality that the artist abandoned his motherland to escape judicial scrutiny of his conduct. As per the thought processes of these “liberals”, aggrieved Hindus committed a sin by approaching courts to restrain the man from making mockery of Hindu religious beliefs. Pseudo-liberals dismiss as vandals the aggrieved Hindus who raised their voice against vulgar portrayals of their religious icons by the controversial artist. Plague on them and their hero.
It is a matter of some consolation for the Hindus that sections of “liberals” feel cheated by Husain’s conduct and they are expressing their disquiet in so many words. This section among “liberals” are distressed that Husain’s choice of a non-liberal monarchy as his new home has shattered their argument in support of him on the creative freedom platform. Had he opted for a democratic country like France or Belgium, these “liberals” hold, they could have justifiably argued that Indian democracy had failed to ensure him freedom of thought and expression. We all know what kind of freedom of thought and expression, including artistic freedom, is available in Islamic countries. Why talk about Islamic countries, will Islamists allow him the freedom to portray the Prophet in the most dignified posture even in a democratic country? The pseudo-liberal crowd that has gone overboard over the painter’s right to paint in nude Hindu icons like Durga and Sarswati, would quote Quranic injections against visual representation of the Prophet to justify restrictions in this regard.
Husain claims that he paints Hindu Gods in nude because nudity stands for purity. Let him then paint Muslim icons in nude. He would never dare to utter a word or draw a caricature that may even remotely hurt Muslim sentiments as he is well aware of the dire consequences that would visit him if he does so. His abandoning India is good riddance for peace loving Indians and not a national shame as the “liberal” crowd would like us to believe. Let him enjoy the “freedom” and luxuries offered to him in Qatar.
“Liberal” brigade’s double standards are manifest in their contradictory responses to Hindu and Muslim protests on such issues. They failed to vigorously defend Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen who was hounded out of her motherland for exposing oppression of women in Islam. Islamists made her life miserable in India too by threatening her life forcing her to live in hiding in the country she had taken refuge in. Violence by Islamists in Shimoga in Karnataka and the response of the BJP Government in the state is a cause of serious concern. Instead of firmly dealing with rioters who indulged in violence and arson, the State Government legitimised the mindless protests by promising strict action against the newspaper that carried an article purportedly authored by the celebrated writer Taslima Nasreen. Whether the article was used with proper authorisation and was correctly translated are side issues. The unfortunate reality is that the Government not only failed to protect the newspaper that carried the piece but also promised action against the media. In a genuinely liberal democracy, a very high bar has to be crossed before freedom of speech and expression is proscribed. Nothing of the sorts had happened in this case.
Our judiciary has a highly commendable record in protecting and defending citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. Media, in particular, is greatly indebted to the higher judiciary for coming to its rescue on countless occasions to restrain the executive from curbing media’s independence and freedom. Of course, Indira Gandhi’s emergency was an aberration when the Apex Court wilted under the dictator’s pressure tactics. However, there have been numerous cases when our judiciary erred in upholding executive’s banning spree. A case in point is the High Court judgment upholding the ban on a scholarly work titled: Islam: A Concept of Political World Invasion. The court surprisingly held that even a remote possibility of the book provoking riots justified the ban and went on to re-interpret certain ayats of the Quran. It is not for the court to say that there is nothing offensive in a religion and that no religion preaches violence. The judiciary needs to refrain from interpreting religions – a task for which it is not trained.
It can be said without any fear of contradiction that Hindus are liberal and tolerant. They don’t take offence at critical examination of their religious texts and are willing to change with times.
Traditional term for Hinduism is Sanatan Dharma. It is eternal but is neither fixed nor stagnant. The secret of Hinduism’s perpetuity is that it is not fixed for all times but refreshes itself every now and then, adjusting to new circumstances, incorporating new and noble values. It is neither orthodox nor conservative. It is dynamic – a quality closely related to tolerance for pluralism, for diversity, for inclusiveness and, thus, to liberalism in its purest form. That is why Arnold Toynbee called Hinduism a “live and let-live religion”. However that doesn’t mean Hindus will continue to suffer humiliation and will not protest – peacefully – against any insult to their faith and religious icons. The sooner the Hindu-haters understand this reality the better for them and communal harmony.
(The wrtier is a senior journalist.)