Famed painter M.F. Husain has applied for an Overseas Citizen of India card after surrendering his Indian passport to the country's mission in Doha.
“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 by the local media as saying, 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 painter, whose decision to quit his Indian citizenship has caused dismay and cynicism in equal measures among Indians in the Gulf.
“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. 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 choose to remain anonymous, expressed regret over the entire episode.
“I have seen some of his controversial paintings on the web. I just don’t understand what was the need for him to do such paintings. The entire situation could have been avoided,” he said.
Another Indian national, Iftikhar Ahmad, said that 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 his home country, 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.