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Different strokes


Delhi High Court’s observations could pave the way for Husain’s return
MALIK RASHID FAISAL | Issue Dated: May 25, 2008
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Different strokes When will Maqbool Fida Husain return to India? Last week, the Delhi High Court’s observation that “a painter at 90 deserves to be at his home – painting on his canvas” has increased the hope for his return from Dubai.

The celebrated painter has been living in a self-imposed exile in the UAE since 2006, after he faced threats from right-wing Hindu religious groups protesting against his nude paintings of 'Bharat Mata' and the Goddesses Durga and Saraswati. The apex court has dropped three out of seven cases filed in Pandharpur in Maharastra, Indore and Rajkot and the rest have been clubbed into one for hearings in the Delhi High Court after a request by the painter’s lawyers.

The Bharatmata painting by Maqbool Fida Husain first appeared in February 2006 in an exhibition 'Art for Mission Kashmir', which was organised by Nafisa Ali and the Apparao Gallery in Delhi. Hindu groups Jagruti Samiti and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) protested saying it was an affront to Mother India. According to sources close to the painter, despite an apology, the threats continued.

It was the manner of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul's speech that underlined the court's disapproval as it went on to nullify the cases. "We have been called the land of Kama Sutra then why is it that in this land we shy away from its very name? Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and so does obscenity," the single-bench judge observed.

While explaining that Husain’s paintings cannot be charged for hurting the sentiments of Hindus, the judge said in his order: “Ancient art has never been devoid of eroticism where sex worship and graphical representation of the union between man and woman has been a recurring feature”. Kaul further said “A painter has his own perspective of looking at things and it cannot be the basis of initiating criminal proceedings against him”. The artist's son, Shamsad Husain, is hopeful his father will return. “He can probably return home now, though I am not sure when. But he loves India for it is the country of his birth,” he says.

Politico-cultural group Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), in a statement, said: “The court has, in our perception, upheld the right to artistic creation and decisively efforts at censorship through street violence and orchestrated legal action by politically motivated groups. The court has, importantly, held that there was no intent on the part of the artist to cause offense”.

Declaring that such an event is not new, fellow artist Ram Rahman says, “We note that despite an earlier ruling from the higher judiciary holding the charges against India’s greatest living painter thoroughly unfounded, the campaign of victimisation against him for artistic productions dating back a quarter century or more has shown no signs of abating”.

And what has Husain been doing in Dubai? According to his son, “Work keeps him alive, kicking and moving. And he is constantly on the move. At the moment, he is painting a big series in Qatar, where the Sheikh’s wife is building a museum for him”. A good way to spend time.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017