"The curtains are set to go up on the second edition of the India Art Summit sans one of the best known faces of Indian art. The canvases of M F Husain, India's most celebrated painter who is living in exile, will be missing from the three-day fair that opens in the Capital on August 19."
says Times of India in this report.
"The organizers, who had drawn criticism for a similar decision last year, have cited security concerns. ‘‘We acknowledge the iconic stature of Husain but are unable to put all the people and artwork at risk,’’ said Neha Kirpal, associate summit director. However, Kirpal added that an assurance of complete police protection could prompt a rethink."
At the inaugural India Art Summit in 2008, controversy swirled around the organizers’ prohibition of the display of works by M.F. Husain , following threats from right-wing Hindu groups. The ban has been repeated for the 2009 edition, to the dismay of members of the Indian art community.
M F Husain, often referred to as India's Picasso, is in many ways responsible for placing Indian art on the global map -- a contribution which cannot be forgotten.
Says artist Vivan Sundaram: "His contributions have been immense. In fact he has studied and understood Hindu mythology more than anyone of us."
But the artist himself appears to hold no grouse about his exclusion. In a communication to organizers of the art fair, Husain, who has been in self-imposed exile since 2006, promised his support to the event.
‘‘My struggle has been going on for last 15 years. There are over 800 cases against me and only one of them has reached some resolution in SC. I totally understand that without the support of the state and complete police protection, it is impossible to show my art in the fair,’’ Husain said.
Now the ball lies in the Home Ministry's court with the hope that the Government recognises its responsibility to protect India's artistic heritage. An important step that will not only allow India's very own International art fair to flourish but will also uphold freedom of expression which is the essence of art itself.
In September 2008,the Supreme Court of India had cleared charges of obscenity against M.F.Husain. Then the Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal termed M F Husain's painting 'Bharat Mata' a "work of art".
Husain, who fled the country three years ago fearing attacks from right-wing activists had explained earlier before the apex court that he had already apologised on behalf of the auctioneer for naming the painting 'Bharat Mata', something he had not chosen.
The New Indian Express in an editorial said:
"But what their capitulation to the threat of anti-socials implies is that the politically-inspired spirit of intolerance continues to be alive and well. The Hindutva brigade may have suffered an electoral setback, but its followers continue to pose a danger to any kind of art or artists of whom they do not approve. In the social sphere, therefore, they continue to hold the whip over a painter or writer or filmmaker who may transgress their perception of what is permissible.
But while the thuggish behaviour of these political activists is understandable, what is curious is the supine response of even those governments that claim to be secular and liberal-minded. The very fact that Husain is unable to return to his home country is in itself an indictment of the government at the Centre for its inability to offer him protection.
Such supine response we saw in the issue of Taslima Nasreen too.