Court verdict should bring Husain home, says son

May 8th, 2008 - 8:28 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) The son is waiting for his father to come home. With the Delhi High Court Thursday dismissing three of six disputes against M.F. Husain, son Shamshad is hoping his 93-year-old father will be back from his self-imposed exile in Dubai. For Maqbool Fida Husain, one of the hottest selling names of Indian art, the high court striking down three of the six major legal disputes pertaining to his controversial Bharatmata painting must be welcome news.

The canvas, which allegedly showed ‘Mother India’ in an obscene light, offended right-wing Hindu groups both in India and abroad, and led not only to law suits but also to Husain leaving the country.

The artist longs to return home. “Probably he can return home now, though I am not sure when. But he loves India for it’s the country of his birth,” the artist’s son Shamshad Husain told IANS.

“This is a very good beginning. Al last, the court has shown some leniency to my father. There were so many cases and fatwas against him. I hope the rest of the cases are also dismissed,” he said.

Shamshad, who is flying to Dubai to meet his father, said he had spoken to him. “My father knew about it even before I called him. He is 93 years old, they should not subject him to this. They are shameless; they should be behind bars instead.”

However, the artist himself is “cool” in the face of all the adversity.

“Work keeps him alive, kicking and moving. And he is constantly on the move, he never stays more than two-three weeks in a place. Right at the moment, he is painting a big series in Qatar, where the sheikh (king)’s wife is building a museum for him,” Shamshad said.

Husain is also working on projects in New York and Dubai.

The controversial Bharatmata painting first surfaced in February 2006 in an exhibition Art for Mission Kashmir organised by Nafisa Ali and the Apparao Gallery in Delhi. Organisations like the Hindu Jagruti Samiti and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad protested saying it was an affront to Mother India.

In 2007, Husain apologised for hurting communal sentiments. But that did not end the controversy for the artist who had come under fire in 1990 with his paintings of the Hindu goddesses Durga and Saraswati - cases filed against him then had been dismissed by a Delhi court.

The controversy turned murky when Mumbai Police attached his property following an order by a Haridwar court. Hindu activists also slapped suits against the artist in Delhi and Indore.

Hounded by the controversies and the tirades, the artist left India two years ago.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul’s ruling must have come as a relief.

“A painter has his own perspective of looking at things and it cannot be the basis of initiating criminal proceedings against him,” Kaul said in his order. Complaints against Husain filed at three different places were clubbed together on the direction of the Supreme Court in September last year.

Reacting to the judgement, photographer-designer and art activist Ram Rahman said he expected favourable verdicts in the three remaining cases too.

“I have seen the works which courted controversy and I can tell you the cases were completely malicious. They were frivolous cases and the charges were brought to harass the old man. The law is supposed to protect people’s interest and not harass them,” Rahman said.

“The sad thing is that legal cases in our country last for many years and Husain has been spending huge amounts of money to fight these cases,” Rahman said. “It was a complete travesty on the part of those using justice - it was not the way justice should have been used.”

The artist fraternity also welcomed the law upholding creative freedom.

“An artist is at liberty to have complete creative freedom. It is a very good thing for Husain saab. The artist’s depiction and execution of a theme or a symbol is completely different from those of the viewers. It is open to interpretation. No one praised him when he painted his series on Ramayana and Mahabharata.

“He is such a respectable man and has given his life to art. The judgement shows that we are now thinking globally. There are larger issues like global warming, cross-border terrorism and wars that concern us now,” said Delhi-based Dharmendra Rathore, a leading contemporary artist.

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