Maya with Pink Elephant by Maqbool Fida Husain
I have personally accompanied Mr. Husain to court proceedings in Indore and have first-hand experience of the harassment and terror he faced from bigoted mobs. I received him in Mumbai on his return from the first of his temporary exiles and saw what insecurity and uncertainty this creative genius had to endure in rising India. It is ironical that a country whose religious art often portrays nudity and even overt sexuality, as in the case of the Khajuraho sculptures and the murals and frescoes of south Indian temples, has grown so intolerant as to drive into permanent exile its most famous artist.
I know no one more genuinely and deeply committed to the composite, multi-religious, and secular values of Indian civilisation than M. F. Husain. He breathes the spirit of modernity, progress, and tolerance. The whole narrative of what forced him into exile, including the shameful failure of the executive and the legal system to enable his safe return, revolves round the issues of freedom of expression and creativity and what secular nationhood is all about.
The conferment of Qatar nationality is an honour to Mr. Husain, to his artistic genius, and to the India-rooted civilisational values he represents. Nevertheless, it is a sad day for India.
It is wonderful that an artist like Husain, who has been so vilified by his home country, has found acceptance and a new life for himself. the First Lady of Qatar has commissioned a series on the history of the Arab Civilization, which Husain is working on in conjunction with a series on the history of the Indian civilization- should make for some interesting works that will, no doubt, enrage extremists in India further. such a shame.
I’ve written about M.F Husain extensovely in the past. here is a list of posts tracking the controversies surrounding India’s Picasso and his startling nude works.