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Yesterday I received a mail with some supposedly controversial M.F. Hussain paintings of Hindu deities. I felt that it was important for me to make my stand clear, so despite it being a spam, I replied to the mail. What resulted was a debate which I am reproducing here as is.

My intention is not to pass a judgement on M.F. Hussain or his work but to raise some issues which I feel are critical for the functioning of a secular democratic system and my views on culture.

(I am not posting the names of people to protect their privacy)

Original Mail Text:

it is a kind request if u hav an inch of respect on the religion u r born and the almighty god u that u worship ….plz think for a  while  and introspect and take decision on your own ..and forward this to countless people u know and with a bare minimum of 10 people u know.
and reply………

(Me: Attached with this were some paintings whose captions had been deliberately worded to influence people so that the phrase ‘take your own decision’ was really not useful!)

My Reply to original sender and the mailing list:

I would not have normally replied to this mail but given the fact that this is not merely spam but something much more dangerous because it evokes communal feelings, I felt compelled.
 
I do not find anything offending here as my respect for a religion or God is not dependent on whether someone else depicts them with or without clothes.
 
I believe that in a free democratic country, everyone has the right to freedom of ‘peaceful’ expression. At least as educated mature people, we should understand that artisitic freedom is important for growth and enrichment of our culture.
 
Also, whether or not M.F. Hussain or anyone else has respect for my beliefs and faith does not, in anyway affect me unless he/she forces his views upon me. Similarly, I should not try to force my views upon M.F. Hussain!
I have as much respect for a fellow human being as for any religion.
 
I am sure M.F. Hussain is not going about sending mails or barging into people’s houses with his paintings and forcing them to see his work. You can choose to criticize his work but please don’t turn this into a communal issue.
 
In any case, we are all born naked, aren’t we?
 
Thanks,

Tushar

Reply (From someone in the ‘To’ list, not the original sender) to my mail:

you have done a good job indeed but it is the diversity of that vibrant culture in which we all are born which allows us to express our feelings like you expressed.But dear there are some ethics ,morale and code of conduct which should be maintained by everybody .
No one would allow any artist such a freedom making  xyz  mother’s nude pictures in a derogatory manner whosoever he or she may be just because he is an artist .It is not the first time he has been summoned by court ,in 1970 .1990,1996 simillar cases were registered against him.
As you rightly said it is not the God who feels weather He is presented in any nude form or not & He will never feel bad even if we pray him by spitting on him rather it shows our perception & thinking  how do we pray Him ???and this is why we pray by closing the eyes.by assuming certain picture in our minds
when the sensibilities of million of hindus are hurt and soft targeted and also if it is peacefully   protested even through mail by allowing them taking their decision on their own  people call it “COMMUNALISM”
it is critical situation  where in secularism does not takes care of hindu sentiments,if it takes it is ornamented by the “communal” word
.lata mangeshkar is also a great artist but she never hurt anybody’s sentiments.
 
i remind you art is a beautiful creation of God like human beings . a real  artist  
always takes note of this. and always respect other religious beliefs.
 
dear,it is  merely a  childish perception culture never enriches by nudity rather it deteriorates
 
if he   is a real artist why he fled away????  he has not even send an apology letter .He is only a born indian   because he has outrightly denied the trials and Democratic Indian Law and is living in dubai  and Dubai Govt and many extrimist org has awarded him for this act and he has recieved it wid full pleasure
 
 
think before you write…….

My Reply to above mail:

I have written after I have thought well and I stand by what I have written.
 
There are more important reasons in this world to worry about, for me, then to be worrying about what one particular person does or feels. There are millions who die of hunger everyday, millions who are rendered homeless, not only in our country but around the world. I’d rather worry about them.
 
“It is a childish perception… culture never enriches by nudity”
What is culture, and what it is enriched by, is not limited by what you and me believe. Culture is all encompassing. There are good and bad aspects within a culture so that people can make choices. You can not disrespect people’s wisdom by making this choice (of good and bad) for them. Moreover, what you see as wrong may be right for me. For an example, I do not believe depiction of nudity is bad.
I am entitled to my opinion as you are to yours. Terming somebody else’s perception as ‘childish’ is disrespecting difference of opinion and doesn’t lead to a healthy debate. And difference of opinion is vital for democracy to exist.
 
As for M.F. Husaain’s fleeing the country, I believe that is a matter of shame for our country that an artist had to flee because he could not pursue his art freely in a democratic country.
 
“Many extremist organizations have awarded him”
What proof do you have? Please do not accuse anyone without ample proof.
 
 
“No one would allow any artist such a freedom making  xyz  mother’s nude pictures in a derogatory manner whosoever he or she may be just because he is an artist”
Absolutely not. Did I ever say that an artist had the right to make personal attacks against a fellow human being? Please do not extrapolate my words.
 
My intention is not to defend a certain person. If M.F. Hussain has done wrong, let him be brought to justice but let it happen under a court of civilized law and not under a court of religion.
 
“When the sensibilities of million of hindus are hurt and soft targeted and also if it is peacefully protested even through mail by allowing them taking their decision on their own  people call it “COMMUNALISM”
Religion is and should be a personal matter and not one of the society or country. Who are I and you to decide if ‘Millions’ of ‘Hindus’ were hurt. Did they come and tell you so? Let us not impose our opinions on others. If you feel hurt, you have every right to go to a court of law and demand justice. You have the right to speak for yourself but not for so called ‘millions’.
Let them speak for themselves.
 
What I am against is intolerance and disrespect for difference of opinion. Without these, it will be impossible to sustain a democracy.
 
Thanks,

Tushar

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