M. F. Husain , Qatar & Freedom Of Expression

Last week it was Husain galore everywhere. T.V. , Newspaper and Internet; it was surfeit of Husain. Everyone has his or her opinion about the painter. Husain always evokes extreme reactions. Either you admire him or criticise him, but you can’t ignore him. And when it is impossible to ignore him, then let me also air my views about him.

I do admire Husain as a painter. He is certainly the most influential and controversial modern Indian painter. Few years ago, he created media frenzy and mass hysteria, when he painted Hindu goddesses in nude. Public outcry erupted and reached its crescendo. Several cases were lodged against him. According to one estimate 900 criminal cases were filed in different courts of various states of India. Art galleries, exhibiting Husain’s paintings, were attacked by some people and his paintings were vandalised.

This is a brief history of the incidents, preceding his exile. After exhibition of his paintings, whole country was galvanised and virtually divided into two groups. One, supporting Husain and the second opposing him. Husain left the country and thereafter lived in exile till now. Recently he surrendered his Indian passport and accepted Qatari citizenship, inviting strong reactions again. I will try to put both the views here and then give my opinion.

Views of Pro-Husain Group :


1 – Freedom of speech and action is of paramount importance and there should be no infringement.

2 – Husain’s intention was not to denigrate Hinduism or insult feelings of devout Hindus. He has painted many other nude portraits. And this is his style.

3 – How can any artiste work in peace, when he is made to run from one court to the other ? So he was forced to leave the country and live like a fugitive. This is an insult to artist fraternity.

Views of Anti-Hussain Group :

1 – Right comes with responsibility. Freedom of expression is definitely important but an artiste should be sensitive to the society, to Indian culture and to religious feelings of the vast section of Hindu populace.

2 – If Husain is so true to his conviction, if he paints only nude paintings, he should paint religious figures of other religions also. Venerable figures of Islam and Christianity should also get his attention. Can he paint nude portraits of an Islamic deity ? Has he painted any ?

3 – As for leaving the country because of court cases, The Supreme Court clubbed all the cases. So he had to attend only one court. Union Home Minister promised all the possible security, so this is not the true cause for his exile. He left country for some ulterior motive.


1 – Unbridled freedom of expression can bring chaos and anarchy. In the name of freedom of expression, people can resort to all kind of things. And moreover, if Husain has right of expression, then why this right of expression was not extended to the Danish Cartoonist ? Why this freedom of expression is denied to Taslima Nasreen ? Why this was snatched from Salman Rushdie? Why  “ The Last Temptation of Christ ” and “ The Satanic Verses ” were banned ? Can I get answers from any supporter of Husain ?

2 – I can’t watch nude portraits of Hindu goddesses or Bharat Mata. As a devout Hindu, I won’t say Husain should paint Gods and Goddesses of Islam and Christianity . Can he paint royal family of Qatar nude ? I am waiting and shall always wait for that day. Will Husain oblige ?

3 – Just after Hussain accepted Qatari citizenship and surrendered Indian passport, he was interviewed by Barkha Dutt of NDTV. He stated in that interview, that he is accepting Qatar’s Royal Family’s offer because of huge amount he is supposed to get for his projects and also the tax benefits he is getting. So this is the real reason for his action and not the court cases or Hindu backlash. Bala Saheb Thackeray even said that Husain is most welcome to return, provided he apologises. Is there anything wrong in saying that “ if I have hurt religious sentiments of anybody, I am sorry ! ” Not apologising is arrogance and nothing else.

4 – And moreover , accepting Qatar nationality for money , comfort and tax benefits is definitely not praiseworthy. Husain proved that he is interested only in money. All the other things being said and written in his defence is just an alibi.

I painfully conclude that M. F. Husain has insulted his country and countrymen. He says that he works as per his conviction and he had done no wrong. If so, then he should have faced the trial and should have proved his detractors wrong. By surrendering Indian passport, he is confirming the allegation of his opponents.

Farewell Maqbool Fida Husain !

I am no longer fida on you !  Goodbye for ever !!




One Response

  1. freedom is a privilege not a right.


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