Why are we angry with M F Husain?

I was reading news in the  TOI about how M F Husain is no longer an Indian the other day and saw the four hundred odd comments left by regular Indians who needed to express their opinion. Surprisingly for me, the overwhelming sentiment seems to be an outrage against the painter for depicting Hindu goddesses in the nude, and most are happy to be rid of him. The TOI blogger Ramesh Khazanchi has written a scathing article on how the Freedom of Expression is not unqualified and how Husain will learn  in his new home how precious it is – of course, forgetting in the process that it was India which drove him away.

I myself have to ask the question: “So what if he painted nude goddesses?” I mean what exactly are people protesting? Suppose Husain had painted the nude goddesses and kept them in his room – never displaying them to anyone. Would they have objected then? If so, then what they’re saying is that a person has no right to even think about naked goddesses since a painting is a mere expression of one’s thought.

Husain's Paintings are not being forced on anyone, so what's the big do?

Husain's Paintings are not being forced on anyone, so what's the big do?

But of course, Husain displayed his paintings, and again I have to ask: “So what?” It’s not as if they were forced on people, not as if they were projected onto buildings, not as if they were advertised on TV. In fact, everyone who saw the paintings chose to see them. The question crosses my mind, what kind of insane person goes to view pictures that he or she knows will offend them? And worse, what kind of person chooses to view pictures and then complains about it?

So perhaps people are objecting to the fact that others saw the pictures since one presumes they never saw the paintings themselves (they being so offensive and all). If so, they’re essentially claiming that adults don’t have the strength of mind to know what’s good for them and that someone has to ensure they’re kept in check…Not so different from people like our beloved Pramod Muthalik who feel the need to “protect” India’s culture and force their version of it down people’s throats, saying they don’t know what’s good for them.

In my opinion, people are too quick to put limits on free speech using phrases such as “Freedom of expression is not absolute” or “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say what you want.” Well, I’m afraid it does! A mature society realizes that words themselves don’t harm anyone and more importantly, one can choose what one wants to see and hear. So if you read or hear something which offends you, you have no one to blame but yourself.

What’s your opinion? (You can choose two answers)

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Comments

  1. /** If you want to take revenge on M S Hussain, then reply in the same way he offended you. Write an article, draw more paintings (!), sing a dirty song about him or whatever, BUT – don’t threaten him with violence.
    **/

    who are you to prescribe what kind of retaliation one should make?

    As per your own statement, if some one kicks me, i can kick him back.. if some breaks my nose, i can retaliate and break his nose.. if some one bites my ear, i should retaliate him in the same manner..

    Arent you not advocating laws of saudi arabia.. in pakistan, when a person raped a girl, the village court ordered the brother of the affected girl, to rape the sister of the accused.. Perfect tit for tat, as advocated by you..

    May good sense prevail in you..

    Reply

    • In reply to senthil

      Physical violence is out of limits. Otherwise you can do what you want. Because only physical and financial violence is real harm which you can’t ignore.

      There’s a saying:

      Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

      Reply

  2. If that’s the case, then why there is law which punishes when people abuses other.. why is the PCR act existing..

    There is also another saying.. the physical harm will heal quickly.. but the harm caused by words will never heal quickly..

    Reply

    • In reply to senthil

      To punish someone for harm which is not physical, the following must be met:

      1. The victim must not be a weak person who find everything harmful like women wearing a dupatta
      2. The harm must be real – and assessed by a psychologist. Just their claim of harm isn’t enough

      Reply

  3. /** To punish someone for harm which is not physical, the following must be met:

    1. The victim must not be a weak person who find everything harmful like women wearing a dupatta
    2. The harm must be real – and assessed by a psychologist. Just their claim of harm isn’t enough
    **/

    Who are you to set these terms?

    There is one thing called “Common sense” which you do not accept.. the common sense says, that the harm has to be judged based on situation and the extent of offence.. NOT by any blind rules..

    Reply

  4. *loves the goddess(es) (he painted in nude).

    Reply

  5. I think I have partly commented on the issue earlier. I dislike Hussain’s duplicity on the issue. To me it is clear that he lies when he says that he drew the paintings in nude because he loves them. The proof of that is his not drawing in nude figures of his own religion, which he perhaps loves more.

    Had he clarified that he drew these paintings simply to provoke and gain notoriety, then I would not have been angered, would have perhaps respected him, too. But perhaps, I get more irritated when the media also employs a partisan attitude and hails him as a great painter, not in the least because his paintings sell for a high price. Moreover, they also invoke freedom of expression to support what he does. Of course, he has the freedom of expression, but as I can see the media is not that forthcoming in supporting rights of people to burn the Quran in the US.

    And as I had mentioned earlier, it was also reported that Hussain hadn’t paid his taxes, and perhaps didn’t have much inclination to, so leaving India was a good option for him.

    But yes, he had the right to do what he did (but unfortunately, not under the Indian law, though, depending on how the much discussed IPC section 295-A would be interpreted).

    Reply

    • In reply to Ketan

      A good analysis Ketan. Though we're justified in discussing Husain's motives, I think we must take the debate beyond him and discuss it as a matter of principle – abstracting the issue from the person.

      People have every right to get angry. I'm not debating that. Neither am I debating that they have a right to protest. Everyone has that right too. What they don't have is the right to threaten him with violence. That's a form of protest I'm not about to countenance.

      "Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!"

      Reply

  6. Actually, I took the question you posed as the title of this post quite literally! :)

    Had your question been “does MF have right to draw those paintings?” or “how does one justifiably protests/displays anger against his paintings”, my answer would’ve been different.

    On a somewhat related note, please read my comment on http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/2010/08/fear… There I’ve pointed out how interpreting a question subtly differently leads to opposite answers. The blog post by Tristan is very long, and the context of my comment could be made out without reading it. And of course, he’s an interesting blog. :)

    Reply

  7. All this hullabaloo from a country that gave us Khajuraho

    Reply

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