And So He Left…

About a year ago, I wrote about Delhi High Court’s exemplary verdict that disposed off the charges against M F Husain; I cherished each and every word of Justice Kaul’s verdict that emphasized the importance of tolerance in a free and democratic society.

M F Husain, who was once called the Picasso of India by Forbes magazine, has now given up on India and embraced Qatar. Thanks to the game of competitive intolerance in India, he has now become the Picasso of Qatar.

Many newspaper articles and blogs are written about this – some endorsing, some condemning – but the best article that I came across is from Salil Tripathi (link). Here’s an excerpt:

And this is how it ends. This is how India loses one of its own.

Maqbool Fida Husain, born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, before there was an independent India, is no longer ours. After a decade in which he faced arrest warrants and was threatened, his canvases defaced, his family harassed, his property attached, his personality ridiculed, art galleries showing his art attacked, and his art deliberately and disingenuously mischaracterized, he has decided that it is enough.

For those who argue that Qatar is not a democracy and Husain has become a laughingstock for choosing a country that’s light-years behind India in terms of human rights protection, here’s what Tripathi says: “Qatar’s record on free speech is not relevant; India’s is. And it is for Indians to reflect on why India’s most widely known painter feels safer in Doha than in Mumbai.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Husain felt unsafe: He spent his summers in London, winters in Dubai. He apologized; he explained; he clarified. But nothing was enough for his detractors. Indian ambassadors abroad praised him, while police officers at home prepared arrest warrants. Courts threw the cases out and defended art, but the state dragged its feet. Some officials said the state would protect him, but Husain did not feel safe—to think, imagine and create, in peace.

And so he left.

And the saddest part of all is that this is no longer about Husain. Just look around and you’ll see many examples of people taking offense and often retorting violently (Taslima Nasreen, Yarlagadda Lakshmi Prasad, Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan are some of the recent victims of competitive intolerance), and such events are gaining momentum and earning a wider ideological support.

The end-note on Salil Tripathi’s article reads:

Maqbool Fida Husain was Indian. India made him a foreigner.

I deeply regret this loss, and being an Indian I want to apologize to this great painter and expatriate who still talks proudly about his Indian-ness, expresses regrets if he had offended anyone, and blames the politicians – not Indians in general – for his exile.

***

And while on the subject of ‘taking offense’, here’s today’s comic strip from Jesus and Mo:

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