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Did political class let down Husain?

Friday June 10, 2011 08:50:44 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The political class had failed M.F. Husain as the celebrated painter had to spend his last few years away from India, artists said Friday but the ruling Congress maintained the government had assured the artist of adequate security and blamed the "bigotry" of right-wing organisations for stoking intolerance.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Husain's art flowered because of India's pluralistic ethos but some of his work had hurt Hindu religious sentiments.

Husain, 95, died in London Thursday. He lived in self-exile from 2006 due to threats of Hindu radicals who denounced his nude paintings of Hindu goddesses. He had last year taken Qatari citizenship.

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had said it would provide Husain adequate security if he returns to India.

"The Congress and the government had maintained that if he comes back, we will provide adequate protection. But that's academic debate now. The real issue is bigotry and intolerance of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) which did not allow his last days in India," Tewari told IANS.

He said Congress could not be blamed for Husain spending his last few years in exile and added that cases against the artist were filed by affiliates of RSS.

"I think the shoe is on the other foot... the same forces which are perpetrating the current atmosphere of intolerance are exactly the ones who hounded and harrassed M.F. Husain also. Therefore, I think M.F. Husain's tragic demise in London is a wake up call for all right thinking Indians to think about the damage that bigotry and intolerance can cause to the social fabric," he said.

According to Chandigarh-based artist Shiv Singh, the government should have shown more resolve to ensure that Husain came back to the country.

"It was the full responsibility of the government. He was not an ordinary man. He earned name for the country in the field of art," Singh, former chairman of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Academy, told IANS.

He said right-wing forces were responsible for making Husain leave the country.

"Why have they not demolished the Khajuraho temples (in Madhya Pradesh famous for their erotic sculptures). Worship takes place there and human organs have been portrayed in action," he said.

Singh, who met Husain in Dubai in 2008, said the renowned artist told him that he will not return to India. "He told me that he cannot tolerate what happened with him... He said he was frustrated and there was danger to his life," Singh said.

Manisha Parekh, a New Delhi-based artist, said the political class had failed Husain.

"The fact that he could not come back amounts to denying the basic needs of a human being," Parekh said.

She said political parties in power, irrespective of ideology, did not show the requisite will to facilitate Husain's return.

"The kind of confidence required was not given," she said.

BJP spokesman Tarun Vijay said his party always respected art and artists but some of Husain's paintings had hurt religious sentiments.

"We believe in complete freedom of expression but a large section of people felt that his paintings of Mother India and Hindu goddesses were obnoxious and showed communal prejudice against Hindu faith," Vijay said.

He denied that the political class had failed Husain.

"He got the best response from our democracy and our plural society...He should thank that he was not born and brought up in an Islamic country, otherwise he would not have got this kind of freedom," Vijay said.

He said Husain's art "could flower because India is a pluralistic society".

Asked about the fierce opposition of Sangh Parivar organisations to some of his paintings, Vijay said those who opposed him had done so within the framework of the constitution in keeping with freedom of expression.




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Picture of the Day

A shattered photograph of the artist in a vandalised exhibition in New Delhi in August, 2008. The artist and his paintings have been a target of a Hindutva hate campaign. Some groups alleged that his work hurt religious sensitivities.

(Photo: V.V. Krishnan/ The Hindu)



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