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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.