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A Portrait of India's Intolerance

Discussion in 'National Politics' started by desiman, Jun 14, 2011.

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  1. desiman

    desiman Lieutenant ELITE MEMBER

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    Maqbool Fida Husain was India's most celebrated painter, and his death in London last week was front-page news across the subcontinent. However, toward the end of his life, Husain had trouble finding galleries willing to show his work. He lived in Dubai, Doha or London for most of the last two decades because he couldn't paint in peace in his own country, even becoming a Qatari national last year.

    Husain's story says much about modern India. The troubles started in 1996, when the magazine Vichar Mimansa ("Discussion of Thoughts") published a decades-old sketch that showed a nude Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning. That discovery electrified Hindu activists, who began filing lawsuits against the painter for hurting their sentiments.

    These activists were able to persecute Husain by taking advantage of laws intended to prevent the incitement of religious hatred. Though the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it allows "reasonable restrictions" to safeguard "the interests of the sovereignty and integrity" of the country and "public order, decency or morality." The penal code makes it a crime "to outrage religious feelings" and also outlaws "promoting enmity" between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language—and the all-inclusive "etc."

    Fringe Hindu groups claimed to have been offended by the artist's work, and pressured the authorities to initiate proceedings. Indian courts often throw such cases out, but there were multiple cases against him. When a few of them reached the Delhi High Court on appeal, it ruled in Husain's favor. So did the Supreme Court in a similar case.

    But the court judgments did not stem the tide of vitriol. Vigilantes continued to file cases against him, attacked his works and damaged the studio of a television network that polled its readers on whether Husain should be given India's highest civilian honor.

    Salil Tripathi: A Portrait of India's Intolerance - WSJ.com
    An artist with weaker convictions would have stopped painting altogether, but Husain continued to portray the many colors of this pluralist democracy. Born around 1915, he got his artistic start painting cinema posters. Formally trained at the prestigious Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay, he was an integral member of the Progressive Artists' Group, which brought together leading modernists soon after India's independence in 1947. He painted horses all his life; his other recurring themes included celebration of Indian music, Sufi art and the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. Since 1996, he continued to paint Hindu deities as well as paintings inspired by Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, whom he called his muse.

    But he couldn't go on very long. At one count last decade, there were hundreds of cases pending against him across India, and some death threats too. Instead of defending Husain's right to express his imagination, the authorities did nothing, actually adding to pressure from activists. In 2006, several state governments decided to prosecute him for outraging feelings after he painted "Bharat Mata" (Mother India) in the nude. The controversy scared those who otherwise would have been happy to exhibit his work, including the organizers of the 2008 Indian Art Fair in Delhi, which had the works of 300 artists but not Husain's.

    Exasperated by the lack of support from the Indian state and the continued harassment—both physical and legal—Husain gave up. He was living outside India anyway, and last year he publicly renounced his Indian citizenship.

    Hindu nationalists justified their attacks on Husain's art by noting that the Indian state has allowed other faiths to block literature that has offended them. India was the first country in the world to ban Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses." Muslim activists last year chopped off the hand of T.J. Joseph, a university professor in Kerala, because he gave an exam question that was deemed insulting to Muhammad. Christian groups have protested films like "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Last Temptation of Christ."

    To be sure, a large number of books get published in India, hundreds of films get made and galleries hold many exhibitions without incident. But artists like Husain inhabit speech at the edge of acceptability, speech that challenges conventional thought. The controversial sketch of Saraswati, for example, is an elegant white-on-black line drawing, which makes the viewer reflect on the old Indian tradition of "nirakara," or formlessness. Yet instead of questioning themselves when provoked, extremist Hindus, like extremists from other faiths, have reacted with anger.

    The trouble is that along with such sectarian anger comes New Delhi's timidity in protecting individual rights. Hindus have every right to peacefully protest Husain's depictions, but Indian law allows them to become vigilantes who chill all expression.

    India will now try to claim Husain as a son of its soil. Someone will suggest issuing a postage stamp in his name. Others will talk about naming roads or art galleries after him. A more fitting tribute would be to revoke those provisions of Indian law that drove Husain out of the country. The next M.F. Husain should not have to curb his imagination or dream smaller dreams.

    —Mr. Tripathi, a writer in London, is the author of "Offense: The Hindu Case" (Seagull, 2009)
     
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  2. Star Wars

    Star Wars Captain SENIOR MEMBER

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    Buddy , there is a fine line between tolerance and "taking advantage of tolerance " . Tolerance does not mean you do something that you know will anger a particular religious group and continue doing so without any problems ... If Tolerance means people walking all over me like a doormat just because i gotta keep my mouth shut every time then i don't want any bit of it..... He did not even Apologize to the Hindus for hurting their sentiments.

    You just cannot expect people to just sit quiet and take it down lying... or perhaps the person writing the article does not understand how badly it might effect some Hindus....
     
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  3. Jason_Sid

    Jason_Sid 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    Not that I believe any of this religious stuff, but I firmly believe that if one religious sect can be ridiculed, so can the others. Which was why I was flipping disappointed when South Park censored Mohammed. Nothing should be sacred, if people believe so much in their faith, then they shouldn't let their beliefs be wavered or insulted by what a non-practicing individual says or does.
     
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  4. rcscwc

    rcscwc Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    Like other things, tolerance too has limits. Do not test tolerance lest it should snap. MFH went too far. He purposely painted in obscene manner. His art would be an interating thing had he painted Ayesha sitting nude on Hanuman's lap.

    He did not paint his mother naked. Or his daughter, or Khadija. Could have the ultimate of artistic exprssion. But his creative ideas dried up there. Amrita Shegill is known to have made self portait in the nude. That is art, pal.
    He withdrew his film Meenaxi after just one day, because muslims objected. .
     
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  5. Sid

    Sid Captain SENIOR MEMBER

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    We have already debated this issue in another thread.
     
  6. rcscwc

    rcscwc Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    Then get the thread closed. Else this would get mention in future too.
     
  7. GUNS-N- ROSES

    GUNS-N- ROSES Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    i say tolerance is a two way process. creative freedom does not give right to any individual to hurt the sentiments of others.

    however i loved the great man. simply one of the greatest artist prodiced by india.
     
  8. BlueOval

    BlueOval Captain SENIOR MEMBER

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    You captured my sentiments with this post of your's....."

    "Freedom of expression is a Fundamental right....but your fundamental right ends where my nose begins."
     
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