Famed painter M.F. Husain may have quit his Indian citizenship, but he does not want to snap links with the country of his birth and has applied for an Overseas Citizenship identity.

“India is my motherland and I simply cannot leave that country. What I have surrendered is just a piece of paper,” Mr. Husain, revered by many as ‘India's Picasso,' was quoted as saying by the local media, a day after he surrendered his Indian passport in Doha.

“I will continue to travel to India and have applied for an Overseas Citizen of India [OCI] card as Indian law does not permit its citizens to hold dual citizenship. I'm here to fulfil my professional commitments and I'm grateful that Qatar came to my support,” said the 95-year-old artist, whose decision to quit his Indian citizenship has caused dismay and cynicism in equal measures among Indians in the Gulf.

‘Great loss'

“It's a great loss for the country, especially the so-called secular government, who could not protect a national treasure for exercising freedom of expression,” said Jyotika Khemchandani, a marketing professional here.

“It's a shame on Indian democracy. Husain sahib has been denied justice and freedom of expression. The Indian government should apologise to him for being ignorant about his security and his rights,” said Munawwar Ali Khan, assistant professor of biotechnology at a local university.

However, an official at the Indian embassy, who chose to remain anonymous, expressed regret over the episode. “I have seen some of his controversial paintings on the web. I just don't understand what the need was for him to do such paintings. The entire situation could have been avoided,” he said.

Another Indian national, Iftikhar Ahmad, said Mr. Husain's decision should be seen in the context of the hassles he might have faced as a resident in India.

“Qatari citizenship is nothing but an enabling factor to his creative urge and in no way dilutes his Indianness. Artists by nature need patrons and Qatar is good at that,” he said.

Asked if the Indian mission had advised him against surrendering his passport in the wake of Home Minister P. Chidambaram's recent plea for him to return to India, Mr. Husain replied in the negative.

“She [Indian ambassador to Qatar Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa] is such a gracious lady. I could read her pain from her face when I surrendered the document,” he said.

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