Hussain, Forgive Us…

June 9, 2011 at 9:15 AMJun (Activism, Friends, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

As I was trying to recover from my ill-health, lying on the bed, my cell blinked indicating that I had received a message. I open it to read, “M.F. Hussain passed away.” Though it was a shock, it was a shock only for a split second. Soon I remembered that he was already 95 and we could have heard this news anytime. But that knowledge did not dilute the sense of loss. But what troubled me more was a sense of shame. Yes, the death of Maqbool Fida Hussain has left us enough reason to feel ashamed other than feeling blue about the vacuum his departure has left behind.

Almost fifteen months ago a moving report in The Hindu by N. Ram broke the news of M.F. Hussain being conferred with Qatar citizenship. It was already 4 years, then, since he was on a self imposed exile. In his report N. Ram had said that it was a sad day for India. Indeed it was a sad day for India and also a shameful one. This day of his departure too becomes shameful because we couldn’t keep him in India or bring him back to India, which he said he missed terribly even after he surrendered his Indian citizenship, and he had to breathe his last in London being a citizen of Qatar.

He went on a self imposed exile following several cases being filed against him in 2006 for having “hurt the sentiments of Hindu community by painting nude paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses.” Prior to this his paintings were attacked and his house too. The most absurd of all was his controversial painting of mother India being painted nude. This painting done in the 70s became a controversial issue only after decades. Few months ago I heard a young student asking a noted journalist about this controversial painting. It was evident from her tone that she was offended by the very idea of mother India being portrayed nude.

Several attacks by the Hindu fundamentalist groups pushed him to a self imposed exile in 2006. Later in the year 2010 Qatar “honored” him with Qatar citizenship. After almost a year and a half now he breathed his last in London. For all the attacks, for having made him to apologize, unnecessarily, for his paintings, for having pushed him to a self imposed exile, for having pushed him to surrender his Indian citizenship and for having made him breathe his last in an alien land, we Indians are to be ashamed.

It is not absurd by farce that Hindu fundamentalists have been targeting Maqbool Fida Hussain because as it is known to all of us that the religious art of this country has portrayed nude and semi nude paintings and sculptures for ages. Though M.F. Hussain kept saying the same and reminding the saviors of the great Indian culture about the same, nobody listened to him. In an interview to Sahar Zaman the artist spoke of his painting ‘the birth of Buddha’ where what we see is few women carrying an eye shaped palanquin with an elephant seated inside. He says, “When Buddha’s mother conceived Buddha she dreamt that she has conceived an elephant.” How many proud of the great Indians culture, heritage and history and saviours of Indian culture are aware of such minute details which are a part of the great Indian culture? It’s such an artist who happens to be one of the founder members of the Progressive Artist’s Group who was not just attacked by also made to apologize to highly regressive fundamentalist groups.

When the great theater artist and activist Safdar Hashmi was brutally murdered in broad daylight while he was performing a street play, M.F. Hussain condemned the murder and did a painting of Safdar’s death and the attack on the freedom of speech, creativity and expression. It was this painting of his which appeared before my mind’s eye the moment I heard about the death of M.F. Hussain because his death has left not only a vacuum behind him but also several questions regarding art, creativity and freedom of expression. It’s only by raising these questions and by answering them that we will be honoring the great artist and also, to an extent, cleansing the sin our nation committed by traumatizing the great artist. His painting on Safdar did raise these questions and now we need to raise these questions.

Maqbool Fida Hussain, forgive us. I know you will because there is a common connecting factor i.e. India, the country which you loved with all your heart.


  1. Ravindra Prabhu said,

    Sorry sir.. I do not understand. Who’s on behalf you are asking him to forgive? If that ‘us’ are Indians, I am sorry, no need to ask sorry on behalf of every Indian. I do not know him and his work. I know, he has done something which hurt many. Such art is not an art.

  2. monk said,

    at last a unwanted burden on earth – a third class living creature was taking away by the almighty.

    he must be sad that he could not paint his mother’s naked portrait befor he died


    Dear sir,
    when the fundamentalists of islam are ordered to murder Salman rashdi,and Taslim Nasarin …all secularists are hide in closed doors…when this fellow ( MFH) insulting indian god/godesses wasasked it was made attack on the freedom of speech, creativity and expression. …

  4. badboy said,

    You are both entitled to your opinion my friends’ but if you were forced to leave the country for your mere opinion then it would be wrong. And you dont need to make an open confession but I am more than sure we all sometimes end up saying and doing things that would hurt a segment of our population. So would you deem it fair to be exiled for your opinion or would you prefer a tolerant society where divergent opinions can stay together.

  5. dakxin said,

    एक नज्म अर्ज़ है,

    अन्धेर नगरी का वो कलाकार
    अन्धेरे मे कुछः रन्ग लिये, तस्विर बनाने कि कोशिश का रहा था,
    अफ़्सोस्, वो ये भूल गया था
    कि जिनके लिये वो रन्ग केन्वास पे फ़ैला रहा था ,
    वो लोग, अन्धेर नगरी कि ‘संस्कृति’ प्रेमी प्रजा है,
    जिनके लिये संस्कृति ‘धर्म’ है,
    नफ़रत् करना ‘कर्म’ है,
    सत्य से दूरी रहन फ़ितरत् है।

    मक़्बुल् फ़िदा हुसेन साब्
    आजादी मुबराक् हो!
    अन्धेरे से,
    अन्धेरे नगरी कि प्रजा और प्र-‘शाशन’ से।
    डर से, खौफ़् से, बन्दुक से, तलवार् से,
    तुम्हारा इन्तज़ार् कर रही जेल से,
    और उन रङ्गो से,
    जिन्हे आपने अन्धेरे मे फ़ेलाय,
    किसी को रोशनी को दिखाने के लिये,
    और अब आप खुद उसि और निकल पडे।

    आजादी मुबराक् हो!

  6. Raghava said,

    If the blog post without the word **us**, I might ignored to read through the content or its your individual opinion.

    Since you used it, **us** doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense to others.

    This is the one article made some real sense. Read through & let you know overall view

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