Wednesday, July 02, 2008

MF Husain Nudes: Talibanization of India Slowed Down

In a landmark judgment, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of Delhi High Court has endorsed the right of an artist to paint nudes which include depicting Goddess Saraswati, Sita and Bharath Mata in nude, and overturned criminal proceedings against M F Husain for allegedly hurting public sentiments through his paintings.

The Judge noted [All emphasis mine]:

Our Greatest problem today is fundamentalism which is the triumph of the letter over the spirit. In a free democratic society tolerance is vital especially in large and complex societies comprising people with varied beliefs and interests.

An intolerant society does not brook dissent. An authoritarian regime cannot tolerate expression of ideas which challenge doctrines and ideologies in the form of writings, plays, music or paintings. Intolerance is utterly incompatible with democratic values. This attitude is totally antithetical to our Indian Psyche and tradition.

It must be realised that intolerance has a chilling, inhibiting effect on freedom of thought and discussion. The consequence is that dissent dries up. And when that happens democracy loses its essence.

The judge found the criminal proceedings baseless. He noted, “It is most unfortunate that India’s new ‘puritanism’ is being carried out in the name of cultural purity and a host of ignorant people are vandalizing art and pushing us towards a pre-renaissance era.”

He stressed on the important of tolerance:

A liberal tolerance of a different point of view causes no damage. It means only a greater self restraint. Diversity in expression of views whether in writings, paintings or visual media encourages debate. A debate should never the shut out. ‘I am right’ does not necessarily imply ‘You are wrong’.

Our culture breeds tolerance- both in thought and in actions. I have penned down this judgment with this favourent hope that it is a prologue to a broader thinking and greater tolerance for the creative field. 

He called upon India to welcome back MF Husain:

A painter at 90 deserves to be in his home — painting his canvass!

It comes as a reprieve to some of us Indians, who are free thinkers, and whose number is dwindling with each generation. The onslaught of the irrationality is dimming the light of rational thought in this country. But with this decision it is clear that reason has NOT left India completely; that there are still some sane minds who are ready to reason, who are not caught up in the mass hysteria of irrationality that is sweeping this country; that there are some people out there in the right places that are NOT high on opium of the masses called religion and the heroin of the masses called nationalism.

With this great decision, Sanjay Kishan Kaul has slowed down the talibanization of India. Kudos!


  1. Cool, liked the way Mr Kaul phrased it.

  2. WOW !!!

    Finally justice prevailed !!!

  3. Good, atleast our courts have not yet been hijacked by religious fundamentalists.

  4. Comparing Indian situation with Talibanization is like comparing Holocaust with street riot. Comparing Osama bin laden with local thief. Making a mountain out of molehill...

  5. hmm..still this country still has a majority of fanatic indians...

    personally I would prefer Mr.Hussain to curb his enthu for nude hindu gods as long as he is here...

    or he should have the courage to face the bonfire of the vanities.

    but by law this is still a free country...and so it's his choice.

  6. Comparing what Bajrang Dal and VHP do - however reprehensible - to what Taliban did and continues to do in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not just irresponsible, but betrays a lack of knowledge on the part of the writer about Taliban and their world-view.

    If someone is really interested in finding out more about Taliban and their activities, here's an excellent book: The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan.

  7. Chirkut:
    "Talibanization" is a term used in non-Islamic terms too! (sometimes justifiably and sometimes not)

    According Wiki"

    The term is also used non-literally, and is applied to non-Islamic bodies and organizations by those who allege them to hold "repressive policies" based on their respective religions.

    In addition, members of the left in the United States often use it as a political attack against the Republican Party and the Christian Right in their allegations of the right wing implementing policies based on Fundamentalist Christianity.

  8. As you have asked in your article, why is he partial towards Hindu Gods alone?

    Destination Infinity.

  9. Hi, wonder if this judgement was translated for common people to understand?

  10. As it seems, there will be no limit to what a painter or other artiste can 'express' through his or her work of art or the extent to which he takes liberties within law for expressing himself. It is difficult to define this, as much it is to define what it is not. And questioning a justice's judgment may amount to contempt of court.
    I only want to point out, therefore, making a reference to the title of the topic, more pointedly, the use of the term Talibanization of India. Talibanization would mean, in particular, destroying all non-Hindu idols or desecrating them. This is NOT the case. What is happening is MF Hussain most reprehensibly chose to horrify the majority community, certainly a major proportion of it, by daring to make nudist art out of female Hindu deities. The horrified sections naturally looked at it as Husain's indirect way of telling his countrymen that in Islam, there are deities or their idols, whether male or female, only a prophet, and a formless God never to be shaped as an idol even in human form, and that the religion in which he happened to be borne is the right one so his kind of vandalization will not happen. This was unconsciously in his psyche. It is Mr Husain who is trying to Talibanize India, in two ways: directly, by desecration of Hindu deities; and indirectly, by creating a Hindu-Muslim divide which will spark off Islamic terrorism. God knows, but to us it is clear the various blasts in different parts of India - Mumbai train blasts, cafe blasts in Hyderabad,and the several more recent ones, which now can axiomatically be taken as only Islamic [given the universal brand created by all terrorism but isolated one or two, as done by Muslims] - partly derived from Husain works in nudist deities.

    I therefore join another respondent on this topic when he says that while Husain, at least as per the court judgment, has stayed within law, he should have exercised his own judgment that his work of art, which might be evaluated great by a few "top ranking" art critics [who are they?], could, when exhibited, cause condemnation and destruction of the exhibits. Unfortunately the judgment expends so, so many words more in condemning what the judge perceived as vandalization, one wishes his judgment also included what and what not is art that can be taken as socially agreeable, especially in a democratic society as opposed to, in a theocratic one.


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