For India, M. F. Husain died many years ago

It is ironic that Congress party members such as Ms. Ambika Soni are now saying about the late artist that:

He was always an Indian.

Coming from a member of the ruling party, that failed to lift a finger to provide Husain proper security guarantees when his life was being threatened by religious fundamentalists, this statement is revolting. This is the same party that when threatened by a half-naked fakir resorts to calling his devotees “Hindu extremists” and does not hesitate to send in armed paramilitaries in the dead of night to disperse a peaceful assembly of tens of thousands of sleeping men, women and children with lathi-charges and tear-gas.

Husain renounced his Indian citizenship a long time ago and with just cause. Who would want to continue to be a citizen of a country that cannot protect the lives of its most famous cultural icons but is willing to resort to lathi-charges when the interests of its political elite are threatened by a peaceful agitation? Who would want to be a citizen of a country that is contemplating exporting excess stocks of grain – I’m speaking to you Sharad Pawar – when large numbers of its own populace is going half-fed to bed every night?

Greed, corruption and power have distorted the moral foundations of the ruling elite beyond any hope of recovery. They are now running on empty and are running from pillar to post to claim the moral authority for governing India. Hence, their (non) mea-culpa on the Husain affair. However, much like other modern day cultural icons, Mr. Husain was also of relevance only to the cosmopolitan brigade in this country. How is a citizenry supposed to idolate an artist when for them the only art consists of finding joy in lives dimmed and brutalized by governmental repression?

Mr. Husain was indeed a great artist and there will come a time when his works take their rightful place of honor in our national artistic memory. Ambika Soni, notwithstanding.

One half-naked fakir helped India throw off the chains of colonial rule. Another half-naked fakir now threatens to uproot the tree of corruption that took root in this country soon after independence and under whose branches criminals and liars of all shades continue to take refuge. Only when this tree is uprooted from its very roots and replaced by a system of justice that treats all its citizens on an equal basis, will India be able to claim Husain as its own. Till then, Husain is no more Indian than are the values of integrity, honesty and fair play.

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