The news that India’s most celebrated artist M.F. Husain has been conferred Qatar nationality has touched a nerve within the creative community, with artists terming it a “national shame” that a cultural icon had not been made welcome in his own country.
“Temporary exile was bad enough, but that he should have been pushed into considering this is tragic for all of us as Indians, and especially for us in the artistic community,” said well-known singer Shubha Mudgal.
Several artists felt that the government should have provided sufficient security to Mr. Husain. “Some undeserving individuals have been given red-level security,” said eminent painter Anjolie Ela Menon. “I’m a little bitter that the government could not provide that kind of security to a national icon.”
Actress Sharmila Tagore said the situation was complex. “He’s a free bird. He doesn’t want to be imprisoned by 20 guards,” she said. “All he wants is the atmosphere to work in peace and harmony. Who can guarantee that he gets that?”
Filmmaker Shyam Benegal also said the artist should not be penalised. “You can give me all the security you like, but it is to defend me from people who should be prevented in the first place,” he said. “Why should I have to live in captivity? Why aren’t you looking for those indulging in the politics of intimidation?”
Mr. Husain has been living in Dubai and London since 2006, after the escalation of the Hindutva hate campaign claiming that his paintings of Hindu deities hurt religious sentiments.