Wrong direction of debateMarch 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.