ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Portrait of a Citizen

Artist M F Husain is a victim of the politics of intimidation and of a weak state unwilling to defend its citizens.

After living in exile for four years and finding the government of India and various state governments unwilling to counter the harassment by members of right wing Hindutva groups, India’s most well-known painter M F Husain has decided to accept an offer of citizenship from Qatar. Since 2006, 95-year-old Husain, living in Dubai, has waited for the government to guarantee his safety at home and protection from attacks by fundamentalists who have protested against the artist’s nude renderings of Hindu deities and “Bharat Mata”.

From 1996 onwards, Husain has been targeted by the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena, his works have been repeatedly vandalised, his home in Mumbai has been ransacked and innumerable complaints of obscenity have been filed against him. The official line was always that the complaints were being investigated by the police. Members of Hindutva groups filed legal cases against Husain across the length and breadth of the country – a timetested form of harassment – and violent mobs greeted some of his court appearances. Through all this the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the centre barely paid lip sympathy to Husain’s plight. In any case, it is well known that the BJP prefers its various siblings like the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad to act as the “moral” and “nationalist” drain inspectors. While the parent party presents a façade of constitutional policing of “deviants” of all kinds, these outfits are free to indulge in the worst kind of intimidation and propaganda. In Maharashtra, it was the BJP-Shiv Sena that was in office when Bajrang Dal activists ransacked the artist’s home.

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