We have reproduced below the open letter written by Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja to Mr N. Ram, the Editor of ‘The Hindu’ and posted on her ‘Hildraja’s Blog’. She has written a similar letter to Mr. Aditya Sinha, the Editor-in-Chief of The New Indian Express.
Obviously the Editorial campaigns run by the two newspapers to bring back M. F. Hussain to
Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja, a former professor in Stella Maris College, Chennai was associated with many NGOs as a Development Consultant: she was Consultant for UNICEF and the World Bank funded Tamil Nadu Government’s Water Resources Consolidation Project. She was a member of the National Curriculum Development Committee for Community Development in the TATA Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and a permanent member on the board of the National Schools of Social Work. She was associated with many church organizations and was nominated a member on the Advisory Committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of
She and her husband, a retired professor from
“Much water has flowed since those days - having studied throughout in Minority Institutions and reared in a Christian ethos I am aware of what I have lost and what I have gained! It is a tragedy that one should seek Jesus and his values outside the church. I am fully convinced that the Hindu soul is secular and the Hindu dharma which guides the lives of the Hindus are totally misunderstood by other religions. There is no place for conversion because this ancient land of ours was already oriented to its Creator and the people had connected to the Supreme Being of the Cosmos. Much before Christianity / Islam appeared our forefathers had their religion. It was their openness and utterly secular outlook which enabled all world religions to make
CHO RAMASWAMY: Cho Ramaswamy, who needs no introduction as a political commentator, journalist, lawyer and satirist (and of course as an actor and film maker-director) directly addressed Hussain in his inimitable style. His article, 'Feel Free Mr. Hussain, Go Paint Qatari Leaders' has appeared in the Deccan Chronicle of March 10, 2010. The article may be accessed from: http://ur.lc/hrc*
*Update - June 12, 2011: It appears Deccan Chronicle has since removed Cho Ramaswami's article from its website. Therefore this link does not work any more. However the article was reproduced by some bloggers and is available on the internet.
I have taken time to write this to you Ram for the simple reason that we have known you for so many years - you and The Hindu bring back happy memories. Please take what I am putting down as those that come from an agonized soul. You know that I do not mince words and what I have to say I will - I call a spade a spade - now it is too late for me to learn the tricks of being called a ‘secularist’ if that means a bias for, one, and a bias against, another.
Hussain is now a citizen of
There is no second opinion that artists have the Right of Freedom of expression. Is such a right restricted only to Hussain? Will that right not flow to Dan Brown-why was his film - Da Vinci Code not screened? Why was Satanic Verses banned - does Salman Rushdie not have that freedom of expression? Similarly why is Taslima hunted and hounded and why fatwas have been issued on both these writers? Why has
Regarding Hussain’s artistic freedom it seems to run unfettered in an expression of sexual perversion only when he envisages the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. There is no quarrel had he painted a nude woman sitting on the tail of a monkey. The point is he captioned it as Sita. Nobody would have protested against the sexual perversion and his orientation to sexual signs and symbols. But would he dare to caption it as ‘
Next example is the painting of Saraswati copulating with a lion. Here again his perversion is evident and so is his intent. Even that let’s concede cannot be faulted - each one’s sexual orientation is each one’s business I suppose. But he captioned it as Saraswati. This is the problem. It is Hussain’s business to enjoy in painting his sexual perversion. But why use Saraswati and Sita for his perverted expressions? Use
Talking about Freedom of Expression - this is the Hussain who supported Emergency - painted Indira Gandhi as Durga slaying Jayaprakas Narayan. He supported the jailing of artists and writers. Where did this Freedom of Expression go? And you call him secularist? Would you support the jailing of artists and writers Ram – would you support the abeyance of the Constitution and all that we held sacred in democracy and the excessiveness of Indira Gandhi to gag the media-writers - political opponents? Tell me honesty why does Hussain expect this Freedom when he himself did not support others with the same freedom he wants? And the media has rushed to his rescue. Had it been a Ram who painted such obnoxious, degrading painting - the reactions of the media and the elite ‘secularists’ would have been different; because there is a different perception/and index of secularism when it comes to Ram-and a different perception/and index of secularism when it comes to Rahim/Hussain.
[We are not aware of this masterpiece by Hussain, but can understand The Hindu’s compulsions in welcoming the infamous Emergency. Earlier the paper was hounded out by the then DMK government, some say, for being a Brahmin business. There were rumours that the paper was actually planning to shift outside Tamil Nadu possibly to
In any case when Indira Gandhi dismissed the DMK government soon after imposing emergency she became the enemy’s enemy - a friend! She appointed The Hindu’s proprietor-editor to head Samachar - the news agency she cobbled up after nationalising and amalgamating four private news agencies – in order to control the flow of all information in the country. Her advisers were well-versed with George Orwell’s 1984.
For The Hindu, as with the rest, self preservation was more important and democratic freedoms be damned! Newspapers which till then proudly proclaimed that they fought the British, suddenly caved in and genuflected before the empress of emergency - the only honourable exceptions being Ram Nath Goenka’s ‘Indian Express’ and C. R. Irani’s ‘The Statesman’.
All this was before N. Ram’s time. When he became Chief of the empire, the decent thing he could have done was to change the name of the paper – wasn’t it anathema to his secular ideals? Again commercial interests prevailed over cherished ideals, for with the name also goes the paper’s brand equity.
RNG and CRI have passed from the scene. Where Indira Gandhi could not bend the two patriarchs from their ideals, the passage of time and commercial interests have certainly made their successors crawl before the establishment. Some newspapers have developed an incestuous relationship with the electronic media thus removing any checks and balances that the one may have on the other. - VOXINDICA]
It brings back to my mind an episode that happened to The Hindu some years ago . You had a separate weekly page for children with cartoons, quizzes, and with poems and articles of school children. In one such weekly page The Hindu printed a venerable bearded man-fully robed with head dress, mouthing some passages of the Koran-trying to teach children .It was done not only in good faith but as a part of inculcating values to children from the Koran. All hell broke loose. Your office witnessed goons who rushed in-demanded an apology-held out threats. In Ambur, Vaniambadi and
[All four newspapers in
The recent attack against Kannada Prabha in Mangalore seems all the more poignant because, only a couple of days before the incident, her stable-mate The New Indian Express self-righteously scorched 'right wing thugs' for hounding out M. F. Hussain with such incandescence, that the TNIE seems to have had no battery power left to be used against the offenders of Kannada Prabha.
The external intelligence agency of a small West Asian nation, reportedly has a way to persuade the nation's opponents to cease and desist from a course of action considered inimical to its interests. It issues a verbal warning first, then an orthopedic warning and finally a permanent one. It works. The agency is both respected and feared.
Our pseudo-secular media friends too understand the logic and never complain. They comply. This is the reason why last year a
On the other hand all that the Hindus do is clog internet space to vent their anger and therefore evoke only derision from our PSMF. It is easy to deride ‘Internet Hindus’ without any fear of retribution, orthopaedic or otherwise. Recently, the shrieking shrew of a news channel told a questioner that he was a moron, all for asking why the media practised double standards. You are right, the questioner was a Hindu. According to an 'IH' who commented on a newspaper article, the ‘Kashmir' siren of another news channel had the temerity to call all Hindu protesters ‘gutter-snipes’. - VOXINDICA]
Well this is of the past - today it is worse because the communal temperature in this country is at an all time high - even a small friction can ignite and demolish the country’s peace and harmony. It is against this background that one should view Hussain who is bent on abusing and insulting the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Respect for religious sentiments, need to maintain peace and harmony should also be part of the agenda of an artist-if he is great. If it is absent then he cannot say that he respects
Let’s face it-he is a fugitive of law. Age and religion are immaterial. What does the media want-that he be absolved by the courts? Even for that he has to appear in the courts-he cannot run away-After all this is the country where he lived and gave expression to his pervert sadist, erotic artistic mind under Freedom of Expression. I simply cannot jump into the bandwagon of the elite ‘secularist’ and uphold what he had done. With his brush he had committed jihad - bloodletting.
The issue is just not nudity - Yes the temples - the frescos in Konarak and Kajhuraho have nude figures - But does it say that they are Sita, Sarswati or any goddesses? We have the Yoni and the Phallus as sacred signs of Life - of Siva and Shakthi - take these icons to the streets, paint them - give it a caption it becomes vulgar. Times have changed. Even granted that our ancients sculptured and painted naked forms and figures, with a pervert mind to demean religion is no license to repeat that in today’s changed political and social scenario and is not a sign of secularism and tolerance. I repeat there is no quarrel with nudity - painters have time and again found in it the perfection of God’s hand craft.
Let me wish Hussain peace in
I hope you will read this in the same spirit that I have written. All the best to you Ram.
Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja
OUR EARLIER POSTS ON M. F. HUSSAIN FOR FURTHER
ARTISTIC FREEDOM & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
OBITER DICTA ON ARTISTIC FREEDOM AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY