The Painter’s Plight

Maqbool Fida Hussain, a 96 year old Indian painter of world renown has been in the news for a long time. A section of English press and a group of handful of elite followers with Anglo-American mental bend; by nature anti-Hindu, biased and full of ignorance about Hinduism and given to misinterpretation of facts, is out to portray the artist’s case as a litmus test for Hindu patience.

Hindus, democratic and liberal in spirit still remember Hussain who painted Indira Gandhi during emergency in 1975 as Durga while supporting suppression of freedom and free expression of artists and writers. Today his supporters are soft on him for his being a secular by birth.

M. F. Hussain’s life invites controversies. He flourishes on it. He depicts Hindu Goddess and deities in the nude and calls it freedom of expression at all cost He does it in the secular land of India where Islam forbids any pictorial depiction of the prophet, either clothed or otherwise; where in the name of blasphemy, people like Salman Rushdie and Tasleema Nasreen are put in danger of life and the fate of Danish cartoon is well known. Islam may have different trends. A beloved wooed by a suitor and intoxicated by spiritual passion as romantic lover may enter in side-ways but the main hurdle comes when the prophet is brought to shape or a deity projected in the nude.

The media group stands for Hussain, says, it is a good idea to occur not to figure out the prophet in painting .Hussain’s true intuition arises only in case of Hindu deities where he wants to test Hindu tolerance by painting deities in the nude.

It is a fact today that such elite group counts because of education system thrust upon us during British rule which has made us ashamed and apologetic about our tradition, culture and ceremonies. Macaulay in Minutes of 1835 explains ‘We must get interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinion, in mind and in intellect.’ In 1836 he frankly said,’the effect of English education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo who has received university education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. It is my belief that if your plan of education be followed, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable class in Bengal 30 year hence.’

M. K. Gandhi sensing this danger said, "any attempt to root out tradition, effects of hereditary, climate or other surroundings is not only bound to fail but is a sacrilege.’

Hussain is a citizen of Qatar today, a land which does not respect freedom of expression and democracy. Many Arab nations do not permit Hindus to worship their deities on their land. The liberal world media silently accepts it as normal procedure.

The mental sons of Macaulay argue that Hinduism being a tolerant religion should tolerate Hussain’s freedom of expression. Does religion mean that every person is free to express in unrestrained way, project an aspect of religion in a way objectionable to lay person. True, not everyone can understand the nuances and subtleties of Hussain’s art but still all people have freedom to form an opinion. Their opinions are not invalid. No religion on earth can tolerate derogatory depiction let alone a nude portrait of a deity. Religious tolerance means respect for others beliefs and feelings. Fida Hussain well understands it. He well knows not to portray the prophet in picture. In his posh apartment complex at Dubai, wearing a traditional Emirati gear, he cares to wear socks but no shoes. His son explains that it is just to respect social sensibilities regarding bare feet. As a good Muslim, Hussain has respect for the customs and other’s feelings. Now that he is going to Russia, he knows his painting will contain no nude portrait of deities. He is fixed only for Hindus to act otherwise as he is aware of a Hindu- baiting group at his aid in the name of Hindu tolerance.

Dalai Lama says, ‘I feel that the essence of spiritual practice is your attitude towards others. When you have a pure sincere motivation, then you have a right attitude towards others based on kindness, compassion, love and respect.’ Under this criteria, the face of Hussain shines as of a crusader in garb of strengthening Hinduism by robbing it of its very life breadth of tolerance The limit to tolerance is set by Gandhi, the Apostle of peace and Ahimsa ,who said, ‘The job of a soldier is to march ahead and repel the attacking army. The soldiers will have really done their duty when all of them lay down their lives in saving Srinagar and with Srinagar the whole of Kashmir will be saved.’ In Young India, Gandhi wrote, ‘If the choice is between cowardice and violence, I do believe, I would advocate violence. If the choice is between cowardly behaviour and nation’s dishonour, I would prefer, that we resort to violence rather than cowardice.’

All religions and scriptures survive on our discretion and social ethics. The sensitivity of organised religions is too strong, even to the extent of causing misery, distress and even death to their distracters. Hindu tolerance has accepted all shades of opinions and accepted it in the main stream. This is the strength of Hinduism.

We have known a glorious school of painting and art in Bengal. The works of Abarindernath, Nandlal Bose, Jaimini Roy, and other scholars like Dibesh Chakrabarti were all centred round the idea of nationalism. Paintings were never stereotypes but there was awareness of subaltern subjects. Krishna Lila series of paintings were on purely Vaishnava way. Even Radha was so painted. Still tradition and rules were broken. The depiction of body was product of several performances that were popular then like Jatras. There was no fixed notion of body and mind. Later on body painting was transformed into many beliefs and discourses, identities and differences. Regional ideas with great freedom of expression were depicted. All this was a beautiful and healthy addition to age old Hindu culture.

Ahilya and Radha have been much sought of figures for the painters and poets. Radha is an elusive heroine who ducks behind trees and hides in bowers, like a goddess, not because she is a character with a strong story line but because she is embodiment of profound aesthetic ideas, agony and ecstasy of union and separation for the Lord. Her paintings of intense and exclusive love-making create an atmosphere of eroticism. The interplay of romance and separation, both aim at spiritual import. Ahilya, the first beauty that ever was, with her virgin curiosity and shameless liaison has met with justice of the age in paintings conveying intentionally a message for the male dominated society, depicting the subjugation of even the divine beauty to human lust and snare.

Hinduism treats individual as a part of community. Duty of the individual gains importance. Swami Vivekananda says, 'Any action that makes us go onwards is a good action and it is our duty to perform. Any action that makes us go downwards is evil and is not our duty.’ Every society has some rules; norms and regulations .Every citizen is equal in society and has a right to raise his voice against another person causing him discomfort by violence of social norms. No court or media alone can guide us how to live and why we should not do something. There is real freedom of expression and action where there are no rights without responsibility. Everyone has to be responsible to the society and not hurt the feelings of others. M.F. Hussain is no exception. He should face the music and not escape. Why did he go away leaving India? India was his land of birth. The example of Kashmiri Pundits is before us. Driven by Separatists and left alone by so called secular outfits of ruler, they opted out for safety at different places in India and unlike the painter did not leave the country. This is Hindu toleration, no one has ever come to lament their fate or defend them for secular reasons but the Arab world is good enough for painter’s rescue. Why cannot he face reason and repent to prove a good Indian?

Lastly, to those who consider that Hussain is too great to be treated as one of us. Mahabharata has depicted the result of our deceptions and lapses. At the moment of victory the victors found themselves vanquished and triumphed. The Panadava race was almost destroyed save one child in mother’s womb, Parikshit. The great Avatar Lord Krishna left the world as he was shot by an arrow piercing his foot in the instep through his body. Yudhisthir had to get illusion of hell for sometime s the consequences for telling a lie about Ashvasthama in the war The great archer Arjun for using a Shikhandi had to lick dust against his own son Vahubrahan. The punishment lies here and in this world. Let us not shirk and face the final outcome without any grudge. This is Hinduism.

Now, just a carry over. I may add, Nina Paley, an American cartoonist is the creator of animate film Sita Sings the Blue. He shows that Lord Rama often kicks Sita and walks on her pregnant stomach. There are paintings in which Hindu Gods and goddesses are drawn as cats—such a denigration. It has been reported that Hussain now has painted Bharat Mata as a woman and has shown her being raped, may be by terror. Terror bleeds and not rapes. Showing Mother India in this manner is highly outrageous and unacceptable. U.S.A., Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan also bleeds. Will Hussain dare to paint them in such manner? Terror causes wounds and pain. Does he realise this in case of India? Hussain reserves such rights not for Qatar or UAE but only for India. In form of such obnoxious paintings; our collective consciousness too has been assaulted. Are we going to allow blindly such unrighteous acts to poison people’s mind or willing to stand up for Dharma and realise that in this Hindu-baiting world, ‘ Only Dharma protects the Dharmic.’


More by :  Dr. R. K. Lahri

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