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Vir Saghvi puts l'affaire Husain in context in his characteristic, lucid style:
Now that he has chosen to live in Qatar, the Hindutva-wallahs will ask the obvious questions: How much freedom will he have there? Of course the Arabs will let him paint naked Hindu goddesses. But will they let him paint anything that even remotely offends Muslims? Anything that offends the royal family? Nude portraits of previous rulers of Qatar? Or even, nude portraits of Arab women?
These are crude questions. But sadly, the answers are as crude. Husain will have no artistic freedom in Qatar. He will be no more than a court painter to a medieval monarch. So has he chosen to live in a society that values the artistic freedom that he says he is denied in India? Or has he just taken the soft, very profitable, option and forgotten all about artistic freedom?
These are troubling questions and I think they will worry many of us who have spoken up so vociferously in Husain’s defence for so many years. From what I can tell, the threat of nuisance litigation has now retreated after the Supreme Court has intervened. Nor is India a particularly unsafe place. The Home Secretary has now offered Husain as much security as he needs.
So here’s my view: if he wants to stay abroad, fine. That’s reasonable. But he should not turn his back on his own country. He should not surrender his Indian nationality and opt for a passport offered by an undemocratic regime – all in the name of artistic freedom.
The battle for Indian secularism and free speech must be fought here, in India. And not at the feet of some Middle Eastern monarch.
Couldn't agree more on almost everything in this piece although I am not sure where the figure of "almost 900 cases" is coming from. As the Hindu pointed out a couple of days back, "several cases were reportedly filed against Mr. Husain, only seven registered in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi came to light through the media as the courts had summoned Mr. Husain."
Of the seven cases, four were quashed by the Delhi High Court in May 2008 in a refreshingly worded judgement by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul which had been upheld by the Supreme Court and there are apparently only three minor cases against Husain pending in lower courts which, going by the judiciary's response, were clearly not the worrying factor.
Granted, even to have to fight one legal case is needless harassment, particularly for one as old as Husain at 95, who also definitely faced threats to his physical safety - and the UPA's response to the cases against Husain was abysmally craven even by its own low standards on free speech - but while it may have been hard for Husain to continue living and working here, it was not impossible. One can bemoan the fact that he did not feel safe in India - it is easy to be magisterial and dismissive and my intention here is not to discount or diminish the very genuine threats he faced here from criminals and goons - and that the UPA should have aggressively taken action against those who threatened him -- but the choice of Qatar citizenshop is most inexplicable and can not be defended even remotely on the grounds of greater artistic freedom! Clearly, the only winners in this will be those inciting other against Husein -- the Bajrang Dal et al -- who would now be emboldened even more thinking that they can bully anyone into submission.
Also See from Outlook Archives:
March 2008: Why does no one speak up for his basic freedoms?
May 2008: 'There Should Be Freedom For The Thought We Hate': Full text of the Delhi High Court judgement quashing "the summoning orders and warrants of arrest" issued against M. F. Hussain, which went on to add that 'Freedom Of speech has no meaning if there is no freedom after speech'
Post Script: March 3, 2010: Kishore Singh in the Business Standard
Maybe Husain is right in fearing for his life — he, after all, is the one who has been threatened — but we must not forget that it is possible he is playing to the galleries. And at the bottom of that might be something Husain is very smart about: fiscal prudence.
March 3, 2010: M.F. Husain speaks to NDTV:
"If I were 40 years old, I would have fought them tooth and nail...but now I need to concentrate and need all the comforts... I never said that India rejected me... It was largely a practical decision ... I would have had to become an NRI.. sponsors... taxes... etc"
Ijaz ul Hassan’s “Rifle Butt”, 1974
On a day when people wonder why it is so important to fight the ban on an "irrelevant" book on Jinnah, it was very fitting to come across this piece by Quddus Mirza in Himal Southasian that illustrates how the system of censorship seeps into the very souls of those it affects. It begins with a short story by Luisa Valenzuela, the Argentine author:
A young man writes a love letter to his fiancé, and adds a line or two about the government of his country. He posts the letter, but soon after dispatching he realises that if it is opened in the censor office, he is going to suffer because of the casual negative remark he made. In order to avoid such consequences, he decides to apply for a job in the censor department, so he can try to get hold of his letter. To his surprise, he does indeed get a position, and thus starts learning his new tasks. Several months later, during the course of normal post-checking, he finally comes across his letter. He opens it and reads the content. But instead of hiding it or throwing it away, he writes a note that the sender of the letter has committed a crime against the state and must be punished.
In fact, this entire issue of Himal, with a cover story on censorship is eminently readable and relevant. Apart from the main piece by Lawrence Liang [he does more than paraphrase Ashis Nandi by saying that "the banned films reveal to us the secret politics of the law’s desires"], what I found particularly fascinating is Sunita Akoijam's Chopsticks in Manipur which describes how the move to ban Hindi films and serials in Manipur has had an unexpected consequence: the Koreans have moved in.
OK, this is old and I remember seeing these a couple of years back when I first heard of digital artist Philip Scott Johnson (His work was submitted for the annual youtube awards around then), but somehow there seems to be an interest in these amazing video morphs all over again -- two separate email links in recent days. The Bach is not too bad either.
Women in Film: (in the order they appear in the video)
Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich, Norma Shearer, Ruth Chatterton, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Vivien Leigh, Greer Garson, Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Ginger Rogers, Loretta Young, Deborah Kerr, Judy Garland, Anne Baxter, Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Audrey Hepburn, Dorothy Dandridge, Shirley MacLaine, Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Janet Leigh, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Ann Margret, Julie Andrews, Raquel Welch, Tuesday Weld, Jane Fonda, Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Bisset, Candice Bergen, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sigourney Weaver, Kathleen Turner, Holly Hunter, Jodie Foster, Angela Bassett, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, Sandra Bullock, Julianne Moore, Diane Lane, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry
Music: Bach's Prelude from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 performed by Yo-Yo Ma
He of course also has an equally fascinating one on Men in Film among many others.