June 13, 2021
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L'Affaire M.F. Husain & Free Speech

L'Affaire M.F. Husain & Free Speech


In the Pioneer, Arvind Kumar joins issue with Ashok Malik’s article (“Vanvaas from Ram’s India”) in the same paper, which was also blogged about here

When the state abridges the rights of the individual’s freedom to freely express one’s views, it is a serious assault on one’s liberty. In the cases of vandalism against MF Husain’s paintings, they were just that — minor acts of vandalism against which proper safeguards must be taken.

Exaggerating every minor act of vandalism and portraying them as issues related to free speech despite such acts of vandalism not being state-sanctioned makes a mockery of the concept of the right to free speech. What is really alarming is that the author brushes away the more serious assaults on our freedoms using the full force of the state’s power.

The Government has never pretended to defend the individual’s right to the freedom of expression. Instead, it has always used the excuse of maintaining public order to infringe on the basic rights of individuals. Some of the most egregious examples of the violation of the freedom of Indians include the censorship during the Emergency, the ban on Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the ban by eight States on the movie The Da Vinci Code, the ban on the reproduction of the works of a Danish cartoonist, the arrest of individuals who set up websites and mailing lists expressing their views against the Communists and Ms Sonia Gandhi, and most recently, the vicious attack on Baba Ramdev and his supporters who dared to oppose corruption in the Government. In each of these cases, it was either a case of targeting Hindus or pandering to Muslims and Christians.

Among other things, the article also joins issue with the claim that Husain "quit India due to harassment by Hindus":

Even after the lawsuits against MF Husain were filed, he continued to live in India for several years, including the years when his political opponents were in power. He quit India only after eyebrows were raised in certain quarters when it became known that his customers were always wealthy business houses based in India, but they conducted their financial transactions with MF Husain in a foreign country and channelled the money back to India. Sometimes, MF Husain has donated the proceeds of his sales to charities operated by members of business families. Such patterns in financial transactions are bound to raise suspicions as these patterns are usually associated with money-laundering schemes.

Read on at the Pioneer

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