N. Ram's news story on M.F. Husain being conferred Qatar nationality (Feb. 25) provokes one to ponder over the religious frenzy that stands in the way of the nonagenarian entering his motherland. Recording that the grandiose gesture of the Arab country to the genius is indeed an honour to the illustrious artist of our time and the heritage of the country that he inherits, the Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu rightly termed it a sad day for India. By no means is the hatred against the nation's much-celebrated artist justified and the rule of jingoists shall not pass.
The forceful horse in Mr. Husain's illustration looks back with a craving to return which every progressive and democratic-minded citizen shall support.
Mr. Ram's observation that Mr. Husain has been “genuinely and deeply committed to the composite, multi-religious, and secular values of Indian civilisation” is a fitting tribute to the renowned artist. It evokes bad memories of the intolerant attitude of the saffron brigade, which drove the famous Indian painter into permanent exile. However, we must all be proud of his making a mark in the artistic sphere — though outside India.
It is heartening to note that Mr. Husain has not lost his balance in the face of the continuous legal harassment he has been experiencing in India. His steady handwriting published in The Hindu provides evidence of his will power to fight the odds by being professionally active. But I disagree with Mr. Ram's comments on our religion. The display of nudity that is found in some temples is not an integral part of the Hindu religion but is a commentary on the influence of royal patronage. This display is not found in most folk-art forms as they are passed down the ages without any adulteration.
I do agree with Mr. N. Ram that indeed it is a sad day for India. As Qatar has honoured Mr. Husain with its nationality, it is his privilege to accept the same but India as a special case can grant him the status of Overseas Indian Citizen. While The Hindu has commented upon the impotent system of our secular governments, should we not also pause to reflect on the way the same system bends backwards to appease the minorities by banning the books of Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen? I do not subscribe to any fanatical act by any group and consider freedom of expression should be exercised without hurting others. Why only Hindu fanatics are looked down upon by the secular, fourth estate?
Narayan S. Balaji,
I was pained to read the news item regarding M.F. Husain being conferred Qatar nationality. It was more painful to see his exile being described as the failure of the government and the system. Mr. Husain is no doubt a creative genius, but he used his creation to insult the sentiments of millions of Hindus. His freedom of expression cannot be fully protected either by the government or by any system if it insulted the sentiments and faith of his own populace. Painting goddesses in the nude can never be termed as freedom of expression or creative genius. The government has the responsibility to listen to and respect the sentiments of the citizens as well. The episode may be a sorry chapter in Indian history, but linking it with secularism is difficult to digest. The fact is, Hindus are more secular and live with the people of other faiths in independent India without hurting their sentiments.