M.F Hussain’s death in a London Hospital has prompted a flood of Twitter reactions, grieved and ashamed of the way India treated its legendary artist.
Such shame that an artist who put India on the global stage spent his last years in exile. Atleast in his death give Husain a sense of home, tweeted NDTV editor Barkha Dutt.
M.F. Hussain had spent the last years of his life in exile, driven out by the cases filed against him in the Indian courts against some of his bold paintings which apparently hurt the Hindu religious sentiments on portraying nudity of deities.
Freedom of Expression has been a tricky definition in India. Many of Hussain’s artworks were forbidden from exhibition and were subjected to legal actions as the bureaucrats and the law ministry suspected the pictures to be having potential to spark off communal riots.
M.F. Hussain’s portrayal of naked Saraswati, who is worshipped as the goddess of knowledge by Hindus had risen a huge debate among the orthodox Hindus and the radicals. His envisioning of naked Lakshmi sitting on the head of Ganesha’s head and Goddess Durga in sexual union with her lion, was looked upon as a gesture of offense towards the Hindus. In 1998, his house was attacked by 26 activists of the nationalist group Bajrang Dal.
Condemning Hussain for depicting nudity by the Hindu groups can be seen as a denial of freedom of expression to take Hindu goddesses as a theme. Lord Meghnad Desai points out the hypocrisy by saying that India has tradition of naked gods like Khajuraho scriptures. Many times his pictures had taken inspiration from the erotic sculptures at Khajuraho.
Hindu Philosophy considers “Kaama”(carnal pleasure) to be one of the four objectives of human life which is weighed equally with Dharma(Righteousness), Artha(wealth) and Moksha(Freedom from all bondage and suffering).
Hussain was not only believed to be intending to uproot the faith of Hindus from their deities but also disrespecting the Islamic principles caricaturing Prophet by making his cartoons. This had instigated Hazi Yakub Quereshi, a Muslim minister from Uttar Pradesh province, to declare a prize money of 510 million rupees to the person who would slay the cartoonist.
The “moral police of culture vigilantes have targeted art, literature and films though majority of Indians have grown up in secular modern India after independence.
Says rights activist Ram Rahman: He's been remarkable as a contemporary artist because he's one of — actually he's the only artist who has mined our mythological traditions.