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Yes, India needs MF Husain

By: U. Mahesh Prabhu
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(Author is Editor-In-Chief of upcoming apolitical and illustrated family magazine FOLKS and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK))

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Maqbool Fida Husain, popularly known as M. F. Husain, or simply Husain, is now living abroad. He lives in a land far away from his motherland - India. He is currently based in Dubai. He has been living there after his "self-imposed exile". He"s revered by many as a painter - an artist extraordinaire. Millions are spent by people to buy his masterpiece and the kind of publicity and support he enjoys with the Indian elite is truly enviable.

He has so less to complain about India or Indians. And as per distinguished journalist Kuldip Nayar in his "Leaders & Misleaders" column in COVERT (15-31 December, 2009 issue) he "wasn"t bitter, nor was he against any political party." This, according to Nayar, was when he was speaking on the eve of his 95th birthday celebrations.

According to Nayar, in the very same piece, MF Husain is "sorry that his country"s ethos of freedom of thought and speech had got clouded. He did not blame anyone for his plight, but he stirred the conscience of those present in the room. They realized they should have spoken out in his support..."

I have been born and brought up in India. I have travelled remote corners of this land, not in search of controversial stories like other journalists, but as a humble traveller with an eye for intricacies of its culture. Every square piece of this land has so much to offer. If anyone is to suggest that "India is no more" unity in diversity I can just prove them otherwise in no time. The restraint, understanding as well as loving nature of our countrymen are lauded by everyone. Given this is - which IS TRUE - a question is certain to popup in one"s mind. Why are they so much against M. F. Husain? What did they do?

To resolve the controversy and to bring back Husain it is imperative that we have the RIGHT answers for those questions. Because loosing a great artist like Husain to an alien land is a matter of disgrace for me too. But when he is back I want to ensure, also, that my other fellow Indians aren"t hurt.

Indians are very peace loving. Yes, you may well talk of all the riots to suggest otherwise. But that"s for the sake of argument. Even in your house you can seldom assure of perfect peace - misgiving and accidents do occur. But to keep those misgivings forever is to be unwise. We need to have a big heart to forgive. I sincerely feel that Indians do, and still, have it.

MF Husain is considered "guilty" by people who protest him only for one reason: He paints Hindu deities like Saraswati and even Bharath Mata (Mother India) nude. They suggest that "he has never drawn any Muslim legends so..." And the argument is so true.

Now the question is simple: Do either parties, i.e. MF Husain and his strong critics, wish to resolve the issue? I haven"t met MF Husain but I have spoken to most of his staunchest critics. And after arguments with them I have understood that they are willing to settle down for a compromise if only MF Husain could admit his apology and destroy ONLY THOSE PAINTINGS. Some critics are even willing to compensate for his financial loss - just in case. Aren"t those reasonable?

Protagonists of Husain like Nayar himself have something to add forth this regard. They suggest that "He has depicted Hindu goddesses as an artist sees them. There is more nudity in Konark and Khajuraho than in his paintings..." But that"s a half truth. Isn"t "half truth a whole lie"? This may be unconscious mistake due to lack of knowledge on subject matter. They have failed to note that Konark and Khajuraho"s nudity isn"t on goddesses. As a recognized scholar in Asiatic arts and culture I am competent enough to assert, and even prove, it.

If only the humility of MF Husain could care to heed to the feelings of his very own countrymen I am sure he will be able to apologize and thereby destroy his painting with a promise to never repeat the mistake again.

Husain has, certainly, apologized before. But, I am afraid, his apologies were not honest. He drew couple of more paintings after that. If the violence of his critics is a sin then their instigator (Husain himself) too is no less a sinner.

With all those writing for and against him we have begun creating discord amongst ourselves. This is so unwise. Violence or negations will beget zilch but destruction.

It is important to note that Indians aren"t fanatics like Islamists. They have sought not his head but an apology. I am confident that if only MF Husain could sincerely apologize, his critics would not just forgive him but also laud him for being so understanding. But will he apologize? Would his protagonists persuade?

Time is a great healer. Let us all hope for the best. And yes... India needs MF Husain.

U. Mahesh Prabhu

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