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Thursday, September 13, 2012

From MF Husain to Aseem Trivedi: Drawing, disrespecting Bharat Mata and debate on creative freedom for an artist or cartoonist

A few years ago MF Husain painted Bharat Mata in a way, it was objected by a section of society. He apologised, yet numerous cases were filed against him in different cities by several groups.

Though a celebrity painter, Husain didn't say much about creative freedom or tradition of nude drawings in India. He was fiercely opposed by Muslims also, who opposed him in newspapers, on the streets and elsewhere too.

Was that caricature really denigrating or obscene? Anyway.
You can see photos about Muslims objecting to his caricature on my earlier post. Husain couldn't come back to India, settled outside the country and died. He must have been bitter but didn't say anything critical of the country or the government. 
Now, we have a cartoonist, Aseem Trivedi. In one of his cartoon, he shows 'Gang rape of Mother India'. These are the exact words which he mentioned in his cartoon. Mother India is shown wearing a tricolour Sari. 
Politician is telling her, 'Hurry up', while bureaucrat [spelt wrongly by him] is also holding her hand while another creature [corruption] stands ready.

He drew Parliament in such a way that it resembles a big toilet [commode] and as far as our national symbol 'Ashoka pillar' is concerned, he turned the lions into wolves.
Contrary to Husain's case. Aseem Trivedi is not apologetic. He won't say sorry. The cartoonist who was not too well known, feels that he has every right to draw it. He is quite clear about it. He has conviction, no doubt. Perhaps, good that he has taken a stand.
But the difference in this case is that political parties that right-wing Hindutva groups hounded Husain, but support him for these cartoons. They are not too engaging. But from Shiv Sena to MNS and even BJP, none of these parties feel that such cartoons, particularly, about Bharat Mata, and those tampering our national symbols are distasteful.
The law is clear about it. Yet, he has support from a wide spectrum. Is freedom of expression absolute. No! It comes with responsibility. You can't abuse your neighbour, leave alone tampering with national emblem.
However, Aseem is right in the sense that slapping a case of sedition was unjust. Yes, these colonial laws are used selectively, often misused, and they must be reviewed. He is courageous in a sense. The fact is that he did what he thought was his right.
Sorry, I don't like these cartoons & its my personal thought. They are not seditious but they do hurt my sensibilities. I won't post them on this site. If you intend to see them, search elsewhere. But this is a watershed case.
The strong support the activist-cartoonist has got, political parties standing for his right to expression and state government forced to review its decision--all these are things that would be unthinkable in the past.

I won't say double standards in the case of Maqbool Fida Housain vis-a-vis Aseem Trivedi. Press Council supports him for his right to draw the cartoon. He gets award for courageous cartoons. 
No case registered against him under cyber laws or IT Act, which any other ordinary person may be booked for, if he/she simply forwards objectionable material. 
So there is no question of patriotism test conducted on Trivedi. I am a fool yaar, I shouldn't even think of it. What a silly comparison. Why would someone ever question his 'deshbhakti'!
Or perhaps, there is a new dawn in India. Boundaries of creative freedom are getting stretched and people are imbibing the Western values as far as seeing and understanding art is concerned. Let's hope, the standards remain the same in future as well. 
It was just for the record. 

11 comments:

rohan sharma said...

you are right that aseem overstretched a bit ,but the general mood of society has to be seen in this context.Under normal times this type of action is simply intolerable but when the government is undergoing one of the biggest legitimacy crisis in the history of independent india,young blood is bound to boil and i would give aseem benefit of doubt in this case as his mental psyche is not very different from even a sitting supreme court judge , who gave a statement recently in 2g case that "what the hell is going in this country",so i think comparing hussain sahab's incident with this one is uncalled for ,as hussain sahab also had commercial interests in his creations and his creations couldn't qualify to be depicting nationalistic sentiments unlike aseem.

Ibu Sanjeeb Garg said...

I agree to you broh.I saw that Gangrape picture it was horirble.

I mean to abuse politicians to make fun of them ,to make fun of bureaucrats is one thing.BUt to personify the nation and then indulge something as cheap as this is unbelievable.

I cant believe why people are supporting him.How can they do so.

indscribe said...

Rohan bhai: Actually, I just wanted to put across the point regarding hypocrisy of political parties.

MNS, SS are small fries but BJP that has ruled the country and aspires to do it again, should follow certain principles and have some stand about the issue of artistic freedom.

The Bajrang Dal goons have targeted umpteen art galleries, not just for obscenity, but a variety of reason.

I totally agree that sedition can't be applied in this case at all.

Sanjeeb bhai: Exactly. That particular cartoon is really bad. Anyway.

Parth said...

Fair point but the question from the other side that 'Why couldn't MF Hussain draw even a simple picture of the Prophet?' is also fair. I'm aware that Hussain wasn't even religious person, but in country like India, he should have expected the reaction he did. That is not to say that he should have been beaten up or even arrested. I am always appalled everytime MF Hussain incident is brought up to show how Muslims are treated in India. If things were that bad, MF Hussain wouldn't have become MF Hussain in the first place.

indscribe said...




@ Parth: Brother, this was debated hotly then also.

I am not someone to speak for him or on behalf of him. Still, he perhaps did, it because he went by Indian culture.

Indian traditions that include the unique Indian Muslims tradition. The ganga-jamuni culture of India which allows painting and sculpting idols.

Idols are made in India in all forms, not just painting. Innumerable Muslims make all sorts of idols for Durga puja every year.

This would be termed as 'Kufr' in other countries, unthinkable elsewhere but it happens in India.

The great Alauddin Khan practiced his sarod every day in front of Ma Sharda.

So, this is composite culture. This is a tradition here and hence they did it because they never felt Islam at odds with India's spirit or with Hinduism.

As there is no such tradition of drawing prophet's caricature, he didn't.

But there are Muslim countries like Iran and some other Middle East nations, where there still is tradition to draw Islamic holy figures.

For Muslims in those countries, this is possible. For Muslims here, it is heresy.

Indian Muslims have a unique relationship with India and Hinduism.

Sadly, every thing is looked in terms of Hindu Vs Muslim, which is not the case.

I have also grown up on stories of Hindu texts, scriptures, legends just like on Islamic stories.

I consider both as part of my heritage. Perhaps in future, if I narrated a story, I would be told, 'who the hell are you to say it, you are a non-Hindu'.

Muslims are also getting rigid in the same way.

There is no question of believing that MF Hussain, a well-known artist, did it for denigrating Hinduism.

I don't think he could do it. He didn't play martyr either. Still, we do opposed his paintings.

The movement against Husain was not a spontaneous reaction. Anyone who has some understanding and has seen it, knows that it was coordinated and had the backing of a huge organisation.

Many Hindu artists drew nude goddesses after him also. No one paid attention then.

Husain's fault was that he being a Muslim, crossed the Laxman Rekha in the wrong times.

But shouldn't his apology, and at least, after death, this issue be put to rest.

Unfortunately...everything gets communalised...

Anonymous said...

indscribe...so are you okay with freedom of speech cultures engaging in freedom of speech? like the danish cartoons or the recent film since they have a open culture to trivialize, criticize and make fun of? So it is fine right?

indscribe said...

@ Anon: Who am I to be for or against anything. We live in a society and shouldn't try to hurt others feelings.

Still, if someone is intent to do that, he or she will do. The law of land must prevail.

However, if there is violence to protest, I oppose it. And if sedition is used against a man though he should be booked for hurting sentiments, I would oppose use of sections for sedition.

That's all.

suds said...

Indiscribe - Agree with everything that you have written in the blog and in the comments section. However, we are carrying the hurting the sentiments argument too far be it MF Hussain or Danish cartoons. Aseem Trivedi and Coptic film maker are people who have got attention disproportionate to their abilities thanks to then hyper sensitive extremist, who in turn resort to violence to gain media attention (MNS for example). I was shocked to see Muslims in chennai attack the American consulate where similar to Azad maidan a small group resorted to violence and caught the police by surprise.Am sure the law of the land will never catch up with these hooligans because they are " Muslims" whose sentiments have been hurt. All parties from BJP to the communists are the same when it comes to protecting their interest group.

liju philip said...

The problem is that getting offended is the latest favourite pastime of Indians. So, you write a blog, draw a cartoon, make a movie...you will offend someone or the other.

Hope this Trivedi case will put pressure on the courts and police not to register such frivolous cases in future.

Hope the real culprits (the politicians) who incite hatred and fan anger between communities are arrested for sedition the next time.

Karthikeyan harikrishnan said...

When someone takes a film about muslims,these muslim pigs jump with anger,but they want to protect MF hussain the scum.Fuck the bastard.Drive out all muslims from india.Join the brave vanniyar youth organization to fight against muslims.Contact Karthik.Membership free
KARTHIKEYAN.H #32E,ELLAIAMMAN KOIL ST, VANNANDURAI,ADYAR,Chennai

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with Husain ! We are the tolerant Indians ! We appriciate great paintings of Husain ! Our sculptures of our Godesses or much more nude than his paintings. But we look at them as an infant looks at his mother ! We are born nude from a nude mother ! But a muslim can not do justice to this feeling ! Muslims will kill him if he try even to paint a covered Mohammad (pbuh). So if Husain can't try to paint Ayesha, he must not have painted Saraswati !