Controversies shadowed M F Husain all his life

Controversies shadowed M F Husain all his life

Husain who died in London on Thursday at the age of 95 had been living abroad in self-imposed exile since 2006 and finally settled in Dubai after accepting Qatari citizenship offered to him in 2010.

Progressing from painting cinema billboards to become one of India's most famous avant garde artist, he decided to live abroad after receiving death threats from right-wing groups for his paintings and often shuttled between the cities of Dubai and London.
In the 1970s and 80s he was caught up in controversy for painting Hindu goddesses in the buff.

His painting that first triggered public controversy depicted a bare bodied woman who was painted to look like the map of India, perhaps a take on "Mother India" referred to in cinema and literature. In 2000, cases were filed against Husain on the same issue.
In 2008, the Delhi High Court quashed three cases against him that alleged that he had hurt public sentiments though his works some of which were dubbed as obscene. The Supreme Court transferred the cases from Pandharpur (Maharashtra), Indore (MP) and Rajkot (Gujarat) to the Delhi High Court.

In September 2008, he got a major relief from the Supreme Court, which refused to initiate criminal proceedings against him, for allegedly hurting public sentiments through some of his paintings that were dubbed obscene.There are many such pictures, paintings and sculptures and some of them are in temples also," a bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said, dismissing one such petition.

Also, for the past three editions, the India Art Summit held annually in Delhi has witnessed controversy regarding display of Husain's work.

In January, Pragati Maidan witnessed high drama at the India Art Summit, as the celebrated painter's works were first taken off the walls following fears of attacks with right-way activists and then reinstated after an assurance from the Delhi Police and the Ministry of Culture.

Also, during 2008 during the art summit's first edition, organisers refused to showcase Husain works citing not enough police protection. In protest, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) decided to organise an exhibition solely devoted to Husain's work. The exhibition was vandalised.

In 1998, Husain's house was attacked and art works vandalised. Protests against him also led to the closure of an exhibition in London in May 2006. The Asia House Gallery shut down Husain's exhibition "M F Husain: Early masterpieces 1950-70s" after miscreants sprayed black paint on his works.

Husain's film "Meenaxi: A tale of three cites" also courted controversy and was pulled out of theatres after some Muslim organisation raised objections to a song in the film and filed a complaint with the Mumbai police. They alleged the qawali was blasphemous.

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