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Wrong direction of debate

March 5th, 2010

I know I just wrote about MF Hussain and some of his blasphemous paintings in my post Insensitivities of MF Hussain but the way the debate has been going on in the media has forced me to write on this very relevant issue once again. It was really very painful to see some very prominent persons from the world of art and culture justify what Hussain has done. It doesn’t really matter whether they Hindus or Muslims or Christians. What matters is that they said quite categorically that NUDITY HAS BEEN PART OF INDIAN CULTURE FROM TIMES IMMEMORIAL. They said that we could take a look at Ajanta-Ellora cases or even Khajuraho for that matter and see for ourselves how nudity has been used aesthetically in scultures. By that yardstick, they said, that Hussain had not done anything wrong. What crap!!

Firstly, weren’t Khajuraho temples constructed nearly a thousand years ago and Ajanta-Ellora caves even before that? Times have indeed changed since then and a proof of that is that we no longer roam around in just lungis anymore. I’m sure MF Hussain and his friends must’ve noticed this subtle change which has taken place. But they still don’t realize that art and its definition too has to change and should reflect the times that we live in.

Secondly, why has he painted only Hindu Gods in the nude? Why not Buddha, Guru Nanak or someone else? (Pertinent to mention that nude Buddha is indeed worshiped in some parts of the world) Quite simply because he thought that he would get away with this because we are a tolerant and subservient lot. And may be we are.

Thirdly, if those sculptures in Ajanta-Ellora and Khajuraho were indeed nude, they were made so out of reverence for these deities and not for anything else. Moreover, being topless was not such big thing as it is today.

These detractors further add that Hussain has been hired by Qatar to paint the evolution of Arab civilization which clearly shows the kind of respect he has even in the Muslim world. Moreover, they say, in these paintings he will have to depict Prophet in some form or the other. Lets be candid about it. He may be insensitive towards our feelings but he’s not stupid. If indeed he has to depict Prophet while describing the evolution of Arabs most likely it will be in some form of light or a shadow where you can’t define it as a mortal form. And lets not forget that Qatar officials and govt must’ve briefed him on this issue. I mean, Hussain is only painting it. They will be the property of Qatar govt and they have to survive in the Muslim world. So don’t expect Hussain to do what the Danes did. He won’t.

Another very dangerous aspect which not many people are talking about is that MF Hussain has actually dodged or fooled our judicial system by fleeing from India. It quite clearly shows that he did not have faith in our judicial system or our govt. If he was so sure of his artistic freedom he should’ve fought for it. But he didn’t. Also, it must be said that those who have been offended by his paintings have a right to feel so. Just as Hussain has a right to paint what he must. By that analogy, they too need to be given justice.

There is yet another facet to this whole debate. While Muslim fundamentalists are quite vocal about their feelings whenever they are offended by something or someone like Taslima Nasreen, they have not spoken about this issue at all. We may say- “How the hell are they bothered? It doesn’t really affect them”. Yes, it doesn’t concern them directly. But hypothetically, if some prominent Muslims like Vice President Hamid Ansari or may be columnist like MJ Akbar or even any Muslim organization were to say that it is incorrect on the part of Hussain to have hurt the feelings of Hindus in such a manner, wouldn’t it go a long way in building bridges between the two communities? I think it would. I’m not really sure of Hamid Ansari but MJ Akbar very well can. Lets see if he does. As for Muslim organizations, well, your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, this is an opportunity which can be gainfully exploited to serve a bigger purpose.

But this not just about Hindus and Muslims. It is about being able to live together peacefully. You don’t really have to be a rocket scientist to see that what you are doing is going to hurt the sentiments of a particular community. If Muslims feel bad about Prophet being painted, don’t paint him. Similarly, don’t draw or paint anything which might hurt other religious beliefs. Whats so difficult to understand in that simple logic? Even my eight year old daughter understands this much. She may not yet understand all the reasons behind these beliefs but she still knows these basics.

Related Post

Insensitivities of MF Hussain

Conflicts within Islam

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17 Responses to “Wrong direction of debate”

  1. 1

    Yes, Damn True!!

    What a crap to use ajanta, ellora, khajuaraho for justification and which moron said, Hussain is drawing similar to them?

    For the second facet, i somewhat feel not to mention buddha or nanak names because we don't want to hurt anyone the way we are hurted and i am damn sure there is no such intention with you too. BUT! I agree that people are too tolerant about this. I am not and I respect every muslim esp. for this quality.

    Qatar is indeed making hussain a puppet but i will say "WHO CARES".

    Appreciate the thought of advicing muslims to come forward for improvement in relationship and peace "For a bigger purpose". Politicians cannot do it. Only common man and sensible media can. But our common man is ignorant and media is stupid (not idiot :-) )

    I would like to bring hussain issue as many times as possible for invoking fraternity with other community people. At least i am not talking crap repeatedly like Billi Rani, BigB's fever report, etc that some crazy tv news channels show.

    Comment on this Comment

    Comments on : Yes, Damn True!! What a cra....

    Comment By : K Nair

    Interesting point about billi irani and big b but it is us only who read this kind of non sense. v shud give feedback to these channels to let them know that they r writing non sense.

    Comment on this Comment

    Another Comment on : Interesting point about billi ....

    Comment By : Venky

    @K Nair

    What difference will the feedback make? Everyone knows that media will consider this as a victory rather than a scope of improvement.

    I think the fundamental interpretation of TRP is wrong. People just don't see to appreciate it. They see to witness such crap or laugh at such channels. Its just that we give importance to TRPs, which is wrong. If there is any other thing that can be done, i am still searching for it!


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  2. 2
    Travel India-Hotel Clarks Khajuraho : WaZup! Asia:

    [...] Wrong direction of debate « by Sush Jaitly [...]

    Comment on this Comment
  3. 3

    @Venky, May be you do have a point. No offence meant to anyone when I spoke of Christ, Guru Nanak or Buddha. I apologize if anyone is hurt.

    Comment on this Comment
  4. 4

    Hi Sush,
    The media is trying to propagate a misinformation that Hindu Goddesses are painted in nude in Ajanta-Ellora and nude sculptures of Hindu Goddesses are present in Khajuraho. But these temples and many other temples do not depict Goddesses in nude. They only depict common people and Apsaras in nude. The lower part of Goddesses is always dressed while the upper part may not be as was the custom in many parts of the country even a few hundred years ago.

    That apart, any Hindu painting/sculpture has to basically confirm to the Agama Sastras.

    Many are asking the right question - Whether Hussain has the courage to draw even a fully dressed Prophet Mohamed? But the answer for this from him and his artist supporters is only silence.

    It is not odd for Hussain to accept Qatari citizenship. He belongs to the Sulaimaani Bohra family that is originally from Yemen. So the Middle East is not alien for him. It is home coming after generations.

    Comment on this Comment
  5. 5

    @Shaan, great to read your thoughts after a long time.
    I somehow have this feeling that there is more to his being granted Qatari citizenship than what we are being told. I won't be surprised if our govt is involved in this whole thing in some way or the other. This way it saves the govt a lot embarrassment which they may have to face if Hussain were to get convicted in any of the 900 cases.

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  6. 6

    Yes, I was busy with work for some time.

    I don't think the government is involved in this. Because, even without Qatari citizenship he was living comfortably in the Middle East and London. It may be just an attempt by Qatar to portray India as an intolerant country and Qatar as a modern Islamic kingdom that values art!

    Hussain himself may know well that he will be jailed if he were to return to India. The courts cannot make decision based on his popularity. If the courts were to let him off the hook, somebody may draw a nude painting of Prophet Mohamed leading to bloodbath, and no action can be taken against the person who drew it. The courts know this, so he will be jailed if he returns no matter how loud his admirers protest.

    Comment on this Comment
  7. 7

    @Shaan, may be our govt didn't have a role in this but in that case there should've been some official reaction from our govt on this offer from Qatar. Don't you think so?

    Comment on this Comment
  8. 8
    K Nair:

    @venky, all of us are addicted to TV. admit it. v believe wot they tell us. trps is not for anything but 2 sell ads.
    Another thing, how many of us actually have the balls to talk against media. Internet is one place which is not controlled by media. So let us say what we want to here.

    Comment on this Comment
  9. 9

    Yes, they made the usual assurances that he would be safe in India but there is nothing much they could do to demonstrate their secular credentials as the matter is in court. This was evident in Chidambaram's statement that proper security would be provided to Hussain and his lawyers should be able to handle the couple of cases pending.

    It seems the Supreme Court has quashed some of the cases against him. Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan said "It (Husain’s work) is art. If you don’t want to see it, then don’t see it. There are so many such art forms in the (Hindu) temple structures". This means the judge is either unaware of the fact that Hindu art forms conform to laid out guidelines or the case has been poorly argued by the complainants.

    In Delhi High Court the judge said "A painter has his own perspective of looking at things and it cannot be the basis of initiating criminal proceedings against him. In India a new Puritanism is being carried out in the name of cultural purity and a host of ignorant people are vandalizing art and pushing us towards pre-renaissance era".

    The judge has to clarify what he means by 'renaissance' here. Because in India art has flourished continuously for thousands of years throughout various rules including Muslim rules. Renaissance only applies to Europe where some art works are categorized as renaissance era art. By using the word 'pre-renaissance' the judge has indicated that he uses European mindset and standards here in India. European democracies are mature and countries like Britain don't even have a written constitution because they are decent enough to agree on certain basic values. Is it possible in India? For example what would be the reaction of the esteemed judges if one were to hold an exhibition of the Danish cartoons here in India? Would the judges allow it? Does their arguments of artistic freedom apply to works depicting non-Hindu religions? I hope they would give thought to these things before deciding on any other case against Hussain. If not the best course of action for Hindus is to give back in the same coin.

    Comment on this Comment

    Comments on : Yes, they made the usual assur....

    Comment By : K.P. Prashanth

    Sush, yet another lovely blog from you. You have a reservoir of energy I must say to cap subjects worthy of public awareness and debate.
    Indeed, it was painful to see those prominent personalities from the Art world support this schumbag of a personality that has painted despicable paintings of their very household. Shameful indeed.
    The electronic media ran interviews with this snob with an enthusiasm as if the whole country was awaiting it. NDTV's Barkha Dutt was almost pleading passionately for this jerk to return to India even when he, in no minced words, refused to apologise to the country.
    You are right Sush in assuming a larger sinister plot by the Govt of India in this whole issue. Qatar is no foolish a country to grant citizenship to a 95 year old liability - least known in their or the middle eastern parts of the world without some under the table prompting.
    Our Judiciary and its Head falls short of respect anyway. Mr. K.G. Balakrishnan may be the Chief Justice of India - but would he be were it not for his SC credentials? I doubt. Would he know that Renaissance was a time which immediately followed the medieval period? Would he know that Indian Paintings are vast as India itself? Would he know that, apart from the most popular Ajanta, Ellora paintings and the MF paintings, there also exists a rich collection of Mughal, Mysore, Tanjore and Raja Ravi Varma paintings? I doubt.
    I agree with Shaan - there is no freedom that abuses the values of others. MF has done just that - intentionally. He shouldn't be pardoned. He should go into the most rotten of jails the moment he steps into India. Perverse that he is, he deserves nothing better other than the gloatings offered by the several Bharka Dutts.

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  10. 10

    @K Nair

    Its not about balls but reach. There are innumerous channels in india. Only 2 main news channels from govt. Other channels(news or entertainment) is supported and governed by political parties, business men, advertisers. If you yell at them, they are not even going to turn at you, for these people only create news, the happening and hair raising information. Major section of population(having no self opinion) follow them. "Its governments responisibility to bring competent channels and promote fresh media talent to fight with these dominants". Free and Fair media is the need of hour and government should initiate this, not political parties.

    @Main issue of "wrong direction of debate"

    It has become common that judges are using their self opinion while making judgements and i condemn it very strongly. It is not law then. Shaan's interpreation of application of european thought in india by the judge is clearly evident and well identified by him. Art has never been suppressed in india, it has flourished like anything but with a quality!. Hussain's work is impacting that quality and that's what we are concerned about. His blasphemy stand's away from india's art work. Cases against his work is not against freedom of expression but in support for india's and its culture's interest.

    Govt involvement is there to avoid any distrust on its law body. But it can do nothing.

    Comment on this Comment
  11. 11

    Hey KPP, Welcome back. Hope you had a great time travelling and thanks for the nice words. The aim is to stimulate discussion on these important issues which merit our attention.
    Our media, except for CNN IBN, did not really carry out a debate on this issue. Even these guys were quite reluctant to condemn Hussain, all in the name of secularism. Ridiculous!!!

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  12. 12
    K.P. Prashanth:

    Thanks Sush, nice to be back and amongst your blogs indeed. Truly, the word secularism gives me a repugnant creep now. It has lost its sanctity and worthiness thanks to the political prostitution of the word in India. And media - I despise them now. They have shed neutrality and honesty for monetary gains and in the process have become provokers of many discontent in the society at large! The Managalore, Hubli, Marad, Coimbatore and most recently Rai Bareli flare ups were all partly instigated by the media backed by their respective political masters.

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  13. 13

    Definitely cool desgin of one's website. It could be specific and compares to your posts. Don't quit and make your own position!

    Comment on this Comment
  14. 14

    "Times have indeed changed since then and a proof of that is that we no longer roam around in just lungis anymore. "

    Roam around in Lungi's????????? Are U kidding me???
    DO u even have a clue what the mauryan and Gupta's civilizations were like???
    Harappan for that matter???

    I might be digressing from the topic here, but this is by the most "irresponsible" statement ive seen in print

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