MF Husain was always at the centre of controversy. Well, it was his paintings that made him the centre of a long controversy. It all started with the depiction of a bare-bodied woman, painted to resemble India’s map. It was interpreted as a take on “Bharat Mata (Mother India),” a living symbolisation of the ancient country that inspired the freedom struggle.
And then there were several other paintings of Hindu deities that outraged religious sentiments. I am not going to describe them because there is no use digging up all such controversies.
MF Husain- a man of contradiction
So, what did the left liberals say when MF Husain’s paintings of Hindu deities caused a major controversy? If you think they blamed the Hindus, you are spot on. They called Hindutva supporters intolerant and adulated MF Husain as some sort of a hero or a champion of free speech.
MF Husain remains an iconic figure for the left liberals. In June 1975, the very month when Emergency was imposed in India and democracy was actually in ‘danger’, MF Husain wasn’t actually acting like a champion of free speech. Rather he painted and later publicly presented to Indira Gandhi a triptych of her as “Durga”.
I mean what happened to his love for art and freedom of speech, and yes, wasn’t he the kind who would fight the establishment to support the protection of civil and political rights? Husain’s supporters cannot defend this act of sycophancy. In fact, they have never attempted to defend it and haven’t even talked about it to date.
MF Husain- great painter or ungrateful artist?
Mainstream media has, of course, labelled Husain as a great artist. You know when MF Husain was the centre of controversy, the mainstream media was dominated by the left-liberal ecosystem, and you can infer what it meant.
However, let’s revisit MF Husain’s life. If Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt can be cancelled by the Black Lives Matter movement because they were allegedly racist and hurt the sentiments of a particular community, we in India can at least talk about Husain’s life and decide if he should be remembered as a great painter or well cancelled.
Remember, when MF Husain left India for Qatar, the left-liberal media blamed ‘Hindutva forces.’ It was alleged that intolerant right-wingers forced him to flee from India, the same country that had bestowed some of the highest civilian awards on Husain.
But where did Husain go? I mean Qatar- a country that was isolated by Gulf allies like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain a few years ago for supporting Islamist extremism and terrorism. I mean how extremist is Qatar if it was boycotted by a country like Saudi Arabia, which itself granted first driving licenses to women as late as 2018.
How could MF Husain, a champion of free speech, art, and expression, have endured Qatar’s curbs? But for all the love that he got from India despite the sensitive controversies and Qatar’s history of repression, MF Husain chose to remain a Qatari citizen in the twilight of his life. It shows what MF Husain was- an ungrateful artist.