THEMES

Satanic Strokes?
November 1, 1996
Satanic Strokes?
Targeting icononographic artist, MF Husain, the supremacist Hindutva brigade has revealed a penchant for semitising the Hindu faith
For me, Hinduism was Inclusive and Welcoming
Vir Sanghvi, the editor of Sunday, condemns the witchhunt against M.F. Husain, not only as a liberal who recognises the difference between nudity and obscenity, and a democrat who defends the right to freedom of artistic expression, but also as a Hindu. I, too, register my strong protest not only because I, too, subscribe to liberal and democratic values, but also because I am a Muslim.
 
Sanghvi has been forced to fall back on his Hindu identity not because he considers himself a “Hindu, first…”. I, too, am forced to fall back on my Muslim identity not because I consider myself a “Muslim, first”.
 
Sanghvi is outraged because he believes Hinduism is demeaned by the fanaticism of the Shiv Sena and other “khaki-knickered buffoons". I feel outraged, and threatened, because Hindutva's tirade is not limited to Husain: His painting has become yet another excuse for the saffron brigade to demonise Islam and to target “the enemy” (the entire community of Indian Muslims).
 
In a signed article in Bal Thackeray's and the Shiv Sena's foul-mouthpiece, Dopahar ka Saamna, the Hindi Eveninger's executive editor, Sanjay Nirupam, has issued the “fatwa” that “Husain's fingers would have to be cut off” the moment he returns to punyabhoomi.
 
But he does not stop at Husain and his “unforgivable” crime. Nirupam's “Hindu wrath” engulfs the entire community of Indian Muslims.
 
'It is evident that even in the minds of the ordinary Muslim there is some devious intent. On the surface, of course, they say Husain is wrong. But it is possible that deep inside they find a gleeful satisfaction in observing the whole charade. Muslim society will have to declare its intent and remove our suspicion that they are enjoying a gleeful satisfaction. They will have to join Hindus in their relentless campaign against Husain” (See page 10 for excerpts from the sainik vitriol).
 
Whatever happens, the Indian Muslim is always suspect.
           
Last year, Bal Thackeray gave a call to his boys that if any one dared to touch even a hair on his body, the entire community (Muslim) to which the person belonged should be wiped out from India. Somewhat taken aback at the national condemnation of his outburst, Thackeray came out with the lame excuse that he was talking about Bangladeshis only.
 
While deposing before the Srikrishna Commission in September, Madhukar Sarpotdar, leader of the Shiv Sena group in Parliament, stated without mincing words that his party subscribes to a philosophy of retaliatory justice whereby an entire community is held accountable for the wrongdoing of a few individuals who happen to belong to it.
 
In any civilized society, no law, no court holds a mother, wife or lover guilty of a crime, however grave, committed by a son, husband or spouse. But the saffron brigade, with claims to speak in the name of a rich and ancient civilization, holds an entire community responsible for the act of a single individual.
 
This is neither civilized nor democratic. It is fascism pure and simple. I oppose it not only because it is ideologically repugnant to me, but also because, as a Muslim, I am the target because of what a Maqbool Fida Husain, or a Dawood Ibrahim, chooses to do.
 
I protest also because the nature of the tirade against Husain is proof of Hindutva's hypocrisy. A primary charge against Indian Muslims is that they suffer from the chronic “Muslims first” syndrome and refuse to identity with “mainstream”, Indian culture.
 
I am no fan or follower of Husain or his art of recent years. The little that I know of the man and his work, hardly fits the “Muslim first” stereotype. If Husain does not qualify to be counted as part of the Indian mainstream, I wonder which other Indian Muslim does.
 
No Hindutvavaadi denounced him, on the ground of his being a Muslim, when in his attempt to deify Indira Gandhi at her authoritarian worst during the Emergency, he ended up demonising Goddess Durga. Why, then, has the fact of his being a Muslim become so central to the controversy today? Who defined the nature and the limit to which an Indian Muslim must/can identify and relate with “mainstream” culture?
 
It is ironic that I am today forced to defend Husain, a man for whom I have little respect because at a critical moment in Indian history, he proved to have more in common with Bal Thackeray than me: both publicly supported Mrs. Gandhi during the Emergency. I protest against the witch-hunt against the man not only because I am a Muslim but, in the first place, because democracy and basic freedoms are crucial to me. Like others, I too have multiple identities, the primary of which for me is neither the fact of being Indian or Muslim. Before and above every other identity, I am a human being and that is how I would like to see others too.
 
But since I recognise that for many people, their Muslim or their Hindu identity is very important, I respect their sentiment while subscribing to a two-point “social contract” for peaceful co-existence:
 
One: no law against blasphemy. Alleged sins or crimes against God/Gods/Goddesses should be left to be judged by He/She/Them alone. No state, society or any group of “aggrieved believers” should have any right to punish on His/Her/Their behalf.

I feel very sad that my Hinduism which opened the world for me is sought to be imprisoned by narrow minds and taken in the very direction I was fortunate to leave behind.

Two, any person who does anything with the intention of inflaming sentiments, creating ill-will and hatred or instigating violence between different individuals or communities should be held guilty of a crime against society and punished under due process of law. None should be permitted to take the law into their own hands.
 
If the charge against Husain is blasphemy, let the Heavens decide. If the charge is that of a crime against society, let the courts, not the Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal, judge. But why has a case been registered against Husain, but none against Thackeray, the editor of Saamna and Dopahar ka Saamna, for its writings instigating hatred and violence.
 
Lastly, this may sound sacrilegious to votaries of Hindutva, but as an Indian Muslim, I protest in the name of Hinduism too. I, unfortunately, do not know much about Hindu philosophy and religion, but the little that I got to learn from some Hindu friends and teachers in the early 70s proved crucial to my moksha from the rigid Islam that I was brought up with.
 
This is purely a biographical statement with no intent to compare the relative merits of two major world religions. Today, I feel very sad that my Hinduism which opened the world for me is sought to be imprisoned by narrow minds and taken in the very direction I was fortunate to leave behind. 

(This is archived from Communalism Combat, November 1996)

 
Hindu Hypocrisy
The heavens do not tremble and threaten to crash to the ground when the fate of a 55-year-old woman becomes indelibly linked with a 13-year-old teenager, both victims of neighbourhood rape in Rajasthan. The BJP-ruled state, notorious for sati and female infanticide has now added neighbourhood rape to its crime graph statistics of the last four years show a frightening rise by 30 per cent in violent crimes against women.
 
Most of these are organised rapes, often conducted within the village, with the victims – despairing of justice after the travesty of a ruling in the Bhanwari Devi case – having to live with the ignominy of the perpetrators roaming free in their midst.
 
What must Ma Saraswati, Durga and Sita be thinking of the deeds of their devout sons?
 
As a Bombay-based woman reacting to the Husain saga put it, “Where was male outrage thousands of years ago when Draupadi was disrobed in open court and where is the outrage now when, everyday, women are brutally victimised inside their homes and on the streets?” Why then, this sanctimonious outrage against a painting, in the nude of Ma Saraswati?
 
Especially when, activists of the politically most respectable wing of the saffron family, the BJP publicly disrobed and paraded a Dalit woman around the local temple for the alleged sin of bearing a son, who was accused of theft, in Rajasthan just last year!
 
A 12-year-old prodigy, Samhita Arni, author of children's Mahabharata- A Child’s View, in a recent interview with The Economic Times aptly labelled Yudhishtira a “wimp”. Can a better instance of deep insight and political maturity be found?
 
There are few Indian women – well-versed in the Draupadi episode that has wound itself deeply in Indian art and folklore – who would not find themselves in hearty and instinctive agreement with young Arni. Even in the macho days of yore, famed for oft-repeated acts of valour and courage, while Draupadi was staked in a game of cards, not one of her four other valiant swells found such an act (by Yudhistira) at all problematic. Their silence meant consent. Moreover, they did not even lift their butts when the public disrobing of their wife began.
 
Sita, or Janaki (daughter of the earth), had the privilege of a more dignified response: appalled by her husband, Lord Ram's lack of faith in her – he questioned her chastity after listening to the rumour-mongering of his subjects who were sniggering about the days she had spent in Ravan's kingdom and asked that she go through the agnipariksha (trial by fire) to set their doubts at rest – Sita prayed that Mother Earth swallow her up to escape the humiliation of being a queen who had to face the shame of such suspicion.
 
For women, this is the most acceptable version of the tale-end of the epic Ramayana that has a myriad of endings in its manifold forms.
 
Today, while the daily disrobing of Draupadi's daughters continues in public, women are expected to bear the burden of their own sexuality, a sexuality that is deeply feared because it is seen as a threat.
 
The nude form, female or male, in their erotic beauty appear so threatening but the daily acts of making naked women in real life or disrobing women on the screen are acceptable even to “family audiences.” To keep this female sexuality from finding expression and space, rape is a useful tool apart from the use of violence through other time-tested male techniques.
 
“Where is the outrage now when, everyday, women are brutally victimised inside their homes and on the streets?”

Is it because in its imagery, raw and sensual nudity-female, male, female and male, female and female, male and male – strips the human stage of its hitherto well-entrenched and iniquitous vision generated through the centuries by an essentially male gaze?
                                                                   
For the morally outraged protectors of Ma Saraswati's honour, the issue has never been the indignities heaped on real-life women. Will the rabid rabble-rousers be content after they have ceremoniously clothed their beloved Mata? What if the build-up to this holy act whips up mass hysteria against the community that the offending painter comes from? Wasn't that the original political purpose of this charade anyway?
 
Having tasted blood, will they continue to thirst for more? In the name of worship and the (dis)robing of a female divine form, crude hatreds against “the outsider” are clearly being fanned.
 
Yet again, a Mother Goddess will be ceremoniously returned to her demure pedestal, her place of honour. Not in her mischievous and manifold avatars of Parvati, Durga and Shakti that reflect more potent images of womanhood but demure one moment, kitsch screen “goddesses” making powerful pelvic thrusts in Hindi films, the next.
 
Back in place, the stage would be set again for the next act in the real-life dramas against Indian women. Protected and robed, revered and worshipped as Mother Goddesses, this unique manifestation of female divinity has perpetuated a cruel duality: revere them in your fantasies as the Divine Mother, but do as you will with those in your midst.
 
Once Mata Saraswati has been ceremoniously robed again, this consensual, civilizational raison d’etre of Hindu society will be allowed to continue uninterrupted.
 
Leave me in the nude, Ma Saraswati, would say in response to past and modern day wimps, but do not make me naked. Do not rape me. Let my raw, beautiful, human form remind you that I am more than a mere goddess. I am a woman. Treat me as you would a woman.

If nudity were the issue, Ma Saraswati, the goddess of learning, would demand more of it - male nudity and female nudity - and less nakedness. This is because nudity, a natural state of being is not the product of violence.
 
No wonder then that for the modern day wimp – who watches hundreds of women being publicly disrobed and for whom the masterfully executed, eight-minute-long rape scenes in recent Bollywood productions (that get slicker and slicker, cloaking more and more violence), provide a weekly fix, this covering-up of Ma Saraswati is of crucial importance. He does not want to be reminded that behind Ma Saraswati there is a real-life woman.
 
In devoutly encasing his Mother Goddess and relegating her to a pedestal, he clears the field once again for his fun and games. He can walk again with a swagger, straddle and leash his images of woman with crudity and violence, not feel unmanned, less of a man confronted by visions of her nudity. And continue to do as he will with women.
 
But what if there was a shake up, with one of Draupadi’s daughters, not Ma Saraswati at the helm, who were to command a laying down of arms and a luxurious spreading out in the nude, female and male body sprawled alike, alone or side by side?
 
Remember the image that caused Maharashtra’s minister of culture, Pramod Navalkar's ire not so long ago - Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman not in divine but in human, nude form, using this beautiful image, regretfully, merely to sell shoes? No, that again would be too much for him to take. It would be turning the wimp’s world upside down.
 
(This is archived from Communalism Combat, November 1996)
 
Media Picks - The case against the moral police
PAMELA PHILIPOSE
The Indian Express
 
But now that the hornets are buzzing around anyway, perhaps it’s time to address some of those hitherto unaddressed questions of artistic freedom, aesthetic appeal, social norms and the female body. While we are about it, let us also remember that these are multi-layered issues, which cannot be addressed by bringing out the manacles and sending M.F. Husain to jail. Let us hope that Maharashtra’s saint-goddess Muktabai, the sister of the much-beloved Dyaneshwar, grants some sense to the likes of Pramod Navalkar, Maharashtra’s honourable minister of culture, who carry arrest warrants in their pockets. When one of her male associates, Namdeo, came upon Muktabai bathing in the nude and turned his head in shame she chastised his thus: One is not ashamed to stare at the niches in the walls. Do the cows grazing in the fields have any clothes? I too am like the cows. Why are you embarrassed at my sight? (October 11, 1996.)
 
ILA PAL
Metropolis on Saturday
 
Art, first of all, is not meant to leave you where you are. It would be no fun if it did. You would stagnate and so would culture as a whole. Art should expand your horizon, change the way you see things, I mean that’s what makes it exciting as an activity. Take the example of Meerabai: in her songs she evokes Krishna sometimes as her lover, sometimes as her father, sometimes as her son! Now why didn’t the Hindus of that time, nearly 600 years ago, take out a morcha against her? That’s artistic license isn’t it? But people went along with her, tolerated her Krishna-madness, and look what a poetic treasure we have as a result.
 
(Quoted by Narendra Panjiwani. Ila Pal, a Bombay-based painter is Husain’s biographer. October 19-20, 1996.)
 
SADANAND MENON
The Economic Times
 
Meanwhile, little man you have unleashed something. It is a debilitating emotional plague… In this state you seem to have erased the line between the sacred and the profane; if you want to “worship” every representation of Saraswati you see-whether in a school text book, or on a shop name board or behind an auto rickshaw or on a packet of crackers, or a calendar advertising cement – then you can only deemed to be in serious trouble. Little man, if you can’t decide to keep your worship inside the temple and the pooja room and want to carry it inside art galleries and theatres, you may be victim of your own highly neurotic attitude towards religion…
 
As Jean Paul Sartre said in another context, remember little Man, India is the name of a country; let it not become the name of a nervous disease.
(October 20, 1996)
 
BHASKAR GHOSE
The Pioneer
 
The freedom of speech and expression has been bought by the citizens of this country at a fairly high price. It has to be watched over, and defended vigorously by the people themselves. And we face a challenge once again to this right now, when the VHP and Bajrang Dal have not only come out on the streets against M.F. Husain’s paintings, but destroyed some of his work in Ahmedabad.
 
What they have done is revolting, the more so because they did it in the name of religion. But though they have been brutal and vicious, they do not represent the real danger: we know these louts for what they are. The real danger is in what Pramod Navalkar, the Minister for Culture in Maharashtra has done. Had the state government seized the paintings, it would have been intolerable but not surprising. But the Minister did not do that: he filed an FIR with the police, alleging that Husain had acted in manner calculated to bring about ill-feeling between communities. This is deliberate mischief, for the police will obviously act on what is in reality an order, and yet it seeks to cloud the real issue: that the Minister will decide whether what Maqbool Fida Husain paints is legal or punishable.
(October 20, 1996)
 
ANEES JUNG
The Pioneer
 
The season of Ramlilas see me a long way away from that time. In an atmosphere charged with cynicism and a hidden violence, the Ramlila of Tigri acquired mythical intonations. My thoughts go out to M.F. Husain trembling in cold, foggy London. He loved the season of Ramlilas, would slip into a neighbourhood shamiana and watch the majesty of Ram with the glee of a child. It took him back to his boyhood years in Indore when Ramlilas were a regular feature of his life. Years later inspired by a suggestion of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia to paint the lore of the land, Husain spent 10 months in an Andhra village, sat with a pundit from Benaras, took lessons in the Ramayan of Valmiki and Tulsidas and recreated his own version of the epic - dozens of canvasses, some of them as long as 40 feet that people were happy to refer to as Husaini Ramayana.
 
“Why don’t you paint the story of Islam in a similar fashion?” a friend once asked him. “Do you have the tolerance to accept what I paint? If I raise my brush to depict Islam will you stop the fanatics from descending on me?” It never occurred to Husain that the Hinduism which he celebrated will also acquire its own brand of fanatics who will so soon lose the catholicity of a way of being.
(October 20, 1996)
 
DIPANKAR GUPTA
The Pioneer
 
It is therefore impossible to protect oneself against fascist attacks for the agents of intolerance set up their standards idiosyncratically. If it is goddesses in the nude one day, it is the Hindu scriptures the next or the writing of text books, and so on.
 
This is why it is important to desist from intellectual debates with such organizations and insist instead that the criminals who ravaged Husain’s works be brought to book. This will expose the sordity of fascism, as well as the official agencies that protect and encourage them….
 
Likewise the Shiv Sena consistently glorifies violence and engages it in broad daylight without fear of official reprisals… Intellectuals should therefore curb their natural instinct to debate indiscriminately. Instead they should unequivocally demand that the law should apply to criminals: no more and no less.
(October 29, 1996)
 
ANIL DHARKER
The Bombay Times
 
Much has been made about the fact that only Hindu gods and goddesses are depicted in this way. That argument is silly because it overlooks traditions. Christianity has always, except for a stray case here and there, depicted Jesus Christ with a loin cloth. Islam prohibits the pictorial depiction of Mohammad.
 
In fact, in the strictest sense, it proscribes the depiction of any human form. While Hinduism, uniquely among religious, has glorified the human body and its physical senses. We worship the yoni and the lingam and Krishna disrobes the gopis.
 
That’s the problem with religious fundamentalists. They always glorify their traditions, while knowing nothing about them, which is why they remain a rabble waiting to be roused.
(October 11, 1996)
 
SHOBHA DE
The Pioneer


I hate to say it but it must be said. I believe this misguided, motivated mischievous and malicious attack on M.F. Husain has very little to do with his art and a lot more to do with his name. It also seems like a diversionary tactic to take everybody’s minds of uncomfortable issues like the Kini case and the Sarpotdar imbroglio.
 
The Sistine chapel shows the creation of man in graphic, vivid detail. Horror of horrors, god’s genitals are on view. Yes, god’s…
 
Millions of visitors stare in wonderment at Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Nobody plays the slightest heed to the exposed genitals, even though everybody looks.
(October 9, 1996)
 
AJAY SAHNI
The Pioneer
 
This is because despite his beard and his name and his possible protestations, Husain cannot claim the sanctuary of Islam for his own. By painting the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, Husain proclaimed himself a Kafir; in saying that he has often been inspired by these gods and goddesses, that he admires them, he confounds his kufr
 
Incidentally, I think that Husain is just a skilled charlatan who has created a lucrative career for himself through a series of high profile gimmicks. It doesn’t matter. His freedom to do so is rooted in a tradition and culture that predates India’s ‘secular democratic’ constitution by 2000 years.
(October 19, 1996)
 
(This is archived from Communalism Combat, November 1996)
 
‘Hussein’s fingers will have to be cut off’
‘All of Muslim society will have to explain this silence’
 
The Shiv Sena party organs, Saamna and Dopahar ka Saamna in a series of rabid writings in early October were used by the ruling to foment communal passion not only against M.F. Husain, but all Muslims and Islam.
 
The first unsigned article, entitled Halkat Husain (Shameless Husain) that appeared on October 6, 1996 had this blurb in bold print:
 
“Maqbool Fida Husain, by depicting Hindu Gods and Goddesses naked has displayed his innate Muslim fanaticism. But if he had any guts at all he should have painted the Prophet of Islam copulating with a pig. Then his co-religionists would have cut him to pieces and thrown his body away.”
 
Several groups of Muslims from Mumbai protested against this piece of provocative writing and even filed cases against the offending publication. But, ironically, no case was filed against its editor-in-chief and SS supremo, Bal Thackeray.
 
We reproduce excerpts from two such articles where Husain’s alleged misdemeanours are magnified and hysteria is sought to be built against him because of the fact of his having been born a Muslim and bearing a Muslim name.
 
 (The first, an unsigned article was published in ‘Dopahar ka Saamna’ on October 6, 1996):
 
Maqbool Fida Husain is the contemporary world’s most well-known and successful painter. In India and abroad, he is a much sought after name. In London and America his paintings sell for Rs. 20 lakh.
 
For the wealthy neo-rich, buying a Husain painting and displaying it in their drawing room is the height of fashion. These members of the neo-rich have neither an understanding of art nor the critical abilities or discretion to recognize a painter. They buy a painting simply because it is a Husain. Just like drinking Coca Cola instead of Pepsi.
 
The truth however is that Maqbool Fida Hussein is a petty and trashy painter with a sick mind…
 
Some years ago, Husain had depicted portions of the Mahabharata in his paintings. Among these was a painting of Draupadi. The Draupadi that he painted was without any clothes. Completely naked. When in the Mahabharata, Draupadi, despite the relentless efforts of Dushasana and Duryodhana, never stood without her clothes because Lord Krishna had taken it upon himself to protect her modesty. The Lord made her sari length so long that she just could not be stripped naked.
 
But this sinner Husain, by disrobing Draupadi has not only insulted this upright woman but has also mocked at the omnipotence of Lord Krishna. What sins Dushasana and Duryodhana could not commit, Hussein, in the name of art, has committed.
 
This is not the only sin committed by Husain… In his painting of Saraswati, he has depicted Mother Saraswati completely naked. Our eyes turn away with shame when we gaze at this painting of Hussein’s. The Goddess of Learning who is worshipped by Hindu and Muslim artists alike cannot ever be conceived of, let alone depicted, in this naked state. Only a man such as this, who nurtures a devil in his brain, can commit such a lowly act.
 
The former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, has been depicted by Hussein as Goddess Durga. In that painting too, Durga was painted naked…
 
It is not even as if Maqbool Fida Husain is not aware that the mother is a figure deserving of respect. When he painted his own mother, Shireen, he had depicted her with deep respect. In this painting she sits in a demure position. Except her face, her entire body is clothed in a sari. Even her head is covered with the sari’s pallu (one end of the sari). She looks like the epitome of dignity.
 
            When Husain depicts his own mother so gracefully and respectfully, why does he not have the same respect while depicting Durga and Saraswati whom hundreds of thousands of Hindus regard as their Mother? How should they be painted? Why does he not worship Mother Goddess Durga and Saraswati like he does his mother? Why don’t his eyes become the eyes of the devil when he is painting his own mother? Why is he, like the Pakistani and Bangladeshi fanatics and maniacs who destroy temples and deities, determined to reduce Gods and Goddesses to rubble?...
 
Recently, “stories” about Husain and Madhuri Dixit were published prominently in newspapers. Madhuri’s film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was a hit worldwide. At this point Hussein declared that he would paint Madhuri. He wrote articles and poetry dedicated to her and declared, in the newspapers that he was “fida” (absolutely sold) on her.
 
He saw her film, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun fifty times. He said Madhuri was the epitome of Indian beauty. Among the paintings of Madhuri, there was one named, “The Rape of Europe” that depicted a saand (stud bull) named Maqbool raping Madhuri. In this painting again, Madhuri is depicted in the nude while a sex-crazed saand has shoved his head between her legs.
 
A person who has declared a woman the epitome of Indian beauty, whom he regards as the Mother Goddess, whom he strips naked in his painting, while he depicts himself as a saand raping her, is displaying the mind of a rapist. A sick man or a devil alone can conjure up such an image. No greater insult to love and beauty can be found anywhere in the world…”
 
(The next article published three days later, on October 9, 1996, in ‘Dopahar ka Saamna’ written by Sanjay Nirupam, its editor was entitled “Haraami Husain” (Bastard Husain). Excerpts:
 
“Let me begin by expressing sympathy towards Mumbai’s Muslims, who reacted sharply to the article written in our publication last Sunday on the betrayal and misdeeds of Hussein. The statement made there by our writer was posed as a hypothesis that readers must read as an example…
 
In a highlight that accompanied the article, we had raised a question whether the same Husain who had depicted our Goddesses with such dishonour and disrespect would have the courage to depict Mohammad the Prophet in the same fashion. This was a question to Husain. This was not a wish or desire of our writer! This is not even the culture of us Hindus. For us, the Gods, Goddesses and Great Men of all religions are worthy of respect.
 
In our minds, we have the same, if not more respect for Prophet Mohammad that we have for Lord Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh. Hence those Muslims who were agitated by our writer’s question should please remove any doubts on our motives from their mind. But I would still like to ask a question to those Muslims. When a mere example regarding Prophet Mohammad can agitate their sentiments so greatly, how agitated should we get when see the naked paintings of our Goddesses?
 
The Muslims say, Husain is not our man. His good or bad deeds are not our responsibility. All right do not take the responsibility. But if you are true believers and followers of the Quran, then why did your blood not boil at Hussein’s bastardisation of art?
 
Islam claims to have respect for the Gods and Goddesses of all faiths. Then would it not have been in order that instead of Hindus first opposing Husain, his Muslim co-religionists had taken up cudgels against him?
 
This is not our expectation of the ordinary Muslim but of the Maulvi-Maulanas, who declare fatwas at a drop of a hat on minor and insignificant issues. Shahi Imam and countless Maulvis issue fatwas to garner votes. But when a Muslim called Husain insults the Goddesses of another faith, not a word of criticism?
 
This is wrong. At times like this, it is evident that even in the minds of the ordinary Muslim there is some devious intent. On the surface, of course, they say Husain is wrong. But it is possible that deep inside they find a gleeful satisfaction in observing the whole charade. Muslim society will have to declare its intent and remove our suspicion that they are enjoying a gleeful satisfaction. They will have to join Hindus in their relentless campaign against Husain.
 
They will have to tell spineless and worthless Hindus like V.P. Singh and Nani Palkhiwala that the definition of art and beauty is not limited to depicting divine figures naked. Or else the ordinary Hindu will get confirmed in his belief that what Hussein is doing, is the culture and tradition of Islam. Unfortunately, no other Muslim has ever done (within Islam and against the Prophet) what Husain has done (to Hindu Goddesses) and been left un-criticised by Muslims. One Salman Rushdie writes “Satanic Verses” and the world’s Muslims get angry.
 
Rushdie is not only excommunicated from Islam but there is public declaration of intent to murder him! But when Husain insults a Hindu Goddess not a single Muslim from Bhendi Bazaar gets angry. All of Muslim society will have to explain this silence.
 
Only yesterday, some of our associates had demonstrated their protest outside Husain’s house by performing a pooja of Goddess Saraswati. Even I had gone there. I was told that some women demonstrators had also come to protest against our protest. In the name of freedom of speech and expression, they were shouting slogans of protest against our protest, and in defence of Husain.
 
I would like to ask those women, how shameless can they get defending an artist with a sick mind like Husain who has depicted Goddess Saraswati naked? If Hussein had painted one of them naked, would they shout slogans in his support?
 
Even V.P. Singh declared that obscenity is not in the depiction of art but in the eyes of the beholder. Then why does he not move around naked? Why does he sport a spotless white kurta-pyjama in his countless jaunts between Delhi and Mumbai, Mumbai and Delhi? If he has any guts, let him roam Mumbai naked on his next visit. If he can, ask him to bring two-three naked women to accompany him and then let him tell those who see him thus that he does not make an obscene sight! And it is merely their gaze that makes the spectacle obscene.

Even Nani Palkhiwala has turned senile. He says the artist has full freedom of expression. I ask him: if Husain were, one day, to depict him mother, wife or daughter naked, would his blood boil or not?...
 
Let me remind all those persons who have descended to the streets in defence of Husain, of one thing: the fingers of the long-bearded traitor who has painted our Goddess Mother Saraswati, those fingers have also drawn his own mother, Shireen. We have published that painting. But the image of his mother is not naked.
 
Husain has painted his mother with her head covered demurely in a sari, the image of a woman accorded all proper respect. Why did Hussein not paint his mother naked? Is our much-revered Mother Goddess less worthy of his respect than his mother?
 
I ask the touts of Husain, who in the name of freedom of expression defend such calumny this question. If they do not have an answer let them go home and demand one from their mothers and sisters. If they praise Husain in front of their mothers and sisters they will be slapped by them…
 
The same Husain who after professing his love for Madhuri Dixit can paint a revolting picture… Husain is truly a sexually perverted artist. Whoever denies this is either foolish or mad or perverted himself. To defend Husain is to legitimise the crude and disrespectful in art. This will have to be understood by today’s artists.
 
Whatever Husain has done, he has wilfully done. He has to receive punishment for this, within the law or outside it. If he has so much faith in his art why did he run away to London? He is aware of his crime. He thinks that he will be able to return when the anger of Hindus has cooled down.
 
But Hindus, do not forget Husain’s crime! He has not to be forgiven at any cost. When he returns to Mumbai he must be taken to Hutatma Chowk and publicly flogged until he himself becomes a piece of modern art. The same fingers that painted our Mother naked will have to be cut off.
 
If Muslims are true followers of Islam, they must join their Hindu brethren in this Dharmayudh. There is also a word for the top echelons of the Mumbai police: if they genuinely want to sooth the simmering anger of Hindus, they must proceed to London and arrest and bring back Husain. Or else, these police officials will expose themselves as traitors. They must not forget that they are also Hindus.
 
Why did their blood not boil? And if it did why is there a delay in registering a case against Husain? We are not asking Husain? We are not asking that the police take action against Husain by violating the law. But while remaining within the law, surely the police could prevent Husain having a gay time in London.”
 
(This is archived from Communalism Combat, November 1996)