Thoughts on economics and liberty

Evaluating M.F. Hussain’s naked Hindu Goddess paintings

I have considerable interest in art, although limitations of time have meant that I've not paid as much attention to this subject as I would have liked. Indeed, as a school student, my life's ambition was to become a painter, with the goal of attending the JJ School of Art. My second preference was to become a brain surgeon. But discussions within the family persuaded me against these two choices and I switched to something quite different – the idea of becoming a boring IAS officer. 

My favourite painters are those in the classical tradition (e.g. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and Indians like Shobha Singh and Mali – I forget Mali's first name), but I'm also fine with some modern art including radical modern art like Picasso's (after I saw a major exhibition of Picasso's works, I do believe he had considerable talent). Most modern art, however, still puts me off.

Let me say – although this is not pertinent to the issue under consideration – that I'm not a great fan of M.F. Hussain (although his 'horses' series was interesting, since horses are one of my favourite topics for painting). Given the many controversies that have grown up around him, I have browsed through his nude depictions of a range of Hindu goddesses (some of them in compromising positions). And I do not like them. Not one bit. And so I will never buy them. 

And that should normally be all that there is to say about an artist. You either like the artist's work or you don't. You buy it or you don't. 

But Hussain's paintings have caused great outrage. Why? Why are so many people worked up about Hussain's representation of nude Hindu goddesses? 

I'm not a Hindu; only a simple human – a statement of biological fact that some people sometimes find hard to digest. (I am happy, though, to investigate Indian and other philosophy, including Hindu thought.) However, I do know most stories of the Hindu tradition and I can see clearly why the crass depiction of highly respected characters from Hindu mythology by Hussain has annoyed so many people. I can see why people like  Sandeep can get worked up about these paintings to the level of hysteria, even drivel; even as people like Bhagwad Jal try to gloss over this issue. (Note: I don't subscribe to Sandeep's blog, but chanced a reference to his blog post in an Atanu Dey tweet).

Let me point out that I found Sandeep's language to be in poor taste – almost as bad as Hussain's paintings that he was ranting against. It seems that Hussain and he are made for each other. However, as a defender of liberty I believe that even of the rabble should be free to express themselves, no matter how crude their ability. So I'll let Sandeep's language pass, although I won't go actively searching for his blog posts. 

But let me assess his views (and those of Bhagwad) on the merit of their contents, not their form.

Bhagwad Jal comes from an extreme libertarian position. He projects a position apparently of freedom – but doesn't accept any restraint – either of personal responsibility, or of accountability to others (justice). He wants a free-for-all. In his view, should you so wish to (even if you are emotionally disturbed when this thought occurs to you), you are most welcome to commit suicide. Indeed, I presume he'd want the government to actively support your choice to kill yourself, such as by issuing licenses to suicide-houses where private suppliers can charge to kill you in the manner you choose. Such unmitigated total freedom is his starting position in any discussion.

He therefore believes that Hussain was not only free to do whatever he wished, but that we have no choice but to lump it. Basically he is saying that Hussain was exempt from any obligation to act responsibly, and was not accountable for anything. [Bhagwad has since responded with a more nuanced position here]

But note the following Shekhar Gupta interview with M.F. Hussain:

Are you a devout person in your personal life?

Hussain: I am a believer and not a non-believer.

Do you follow a way of prayer, do you go to a temple or a mosque?
Hussain: I was born in Pandarpur and my mother was a Maharashtrian, and instead of saying “khudai kasam” she used to say “devasheesh shapath”…I was brought up in that atmosphere.

The question that people would like to throw at you is — if you can paint Hindu gods and godesses like this, why don’t you paint the Prophet?
HussainI don’t want to say anything.

And this has not affected your creativity in any way?

Hussain: No. I am doing my work well…

Note that by not responding to the question which most Hindus have of him (i.e. why he did not paint the Prophet), Hussain has effectively relinquished his right to paint others's gods. Because the classical liberal believes that  liberty  is a two-way street.

Kant's categorical imperative makes this clear: "Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law". Or even the Golden Rule: "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you".

Reciprocal obligation is crucial in order for a society to function coherently. Freedom is not a one-way street.  What Bhagwad (and other libertarians) are preaching is not liberty but license. I DO NOT agree that liberty is license.

On the other hand, Sandeep goes to the other extreme. He wants his worldview to be imposed on everyone else. He is not only apparently an expert in art (and I agree that expertise means little in this subjective area) but he throws a tantrum and lumps all kinds of unrelated issues in a ferocious personal attack on Hussain. This kind of tantrum has, however, only hurt Sandeep's own credibility.

While Bhagwad's writings are mostly idle chatter, of no consequence to anyone, Sandeep's rant is potentially dangerous. Sandeep's way of thinking  reminds us why we need a government – to defend freedom of speech even of fools like Hussain. (Sandeep's rant will  also scare away the horses and turn away people like me even more from this modern, aggressive form of "Hinduism". I'm happy to read and understand the thoughts of sensible Hindu philosophers, but shallow fanatics like Sandeep are a total turn-off.)

*  *  *

But enough about these two bloggers. Let me now provide my own evaluation of Hussain's work. Doing that is easy. My article published in Freedom First in August 2010 is self-explanatory. (I have written more about this issue in DOF which is currently work in progress). 

Artistic ‘license’

It has become fashionable these days for artists and writers, claiming artistic ‘license’, to brazenly insult Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and other religions. But they are wrong in doing so. They have no such license. While an analytic critique of a religion is fine, vilification and abuse of a religion is not.
Artists must stop being stupid. They must exercise self-restraint. In no way are they special, or exempt from the laws of the land. Everyone’s liberty is subject to the same standard of accountability.
But what about those artists who refuse to exercise self-restraint? What can be done about them? Should we ban their work or kill them? Clearly not! Three things must happen in the free society, as outlined below.
First, we must develop a thick skin. As they say, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. We must tolerate others’ opinions, no matter how tasteless.
Second, an offensive piece of art can constitute a civil offence. The plaintiff in such a case will need to prove that he tossed and turned in bed for, say, five hours because of the offensive art. The court would compensate the plaintiff for the value of this lost sleep. Class-action suits could also be lodged against the offending artist.
But third, no matter what happens, there can never be any cause for violence being used against the artist. The government must put behind bars anyone who browbeats an artist. Even stupid artists deserve to be protected.

Let me summarise the classical liberal position:

In summary, let it be noted that while I'm not a fan of Hussain's art (his horses – and possibly his Ganesha – series excepted) – that is not relevant to the current discussion.

The relevant issues are the following:

  1. I deplore the irresponsibility displayed by M.F. Hussain. He should have acted with decorum and coherently explained why he was painting Hindu characters in such reckless manner even as he refused to comment on why he did not paint the Muslim prophet. I condemn his depiction of Hindu goddesses the way he did. 
  2. I also note that Hussain did NOT commit any crime under the law, in doing what he did. Poor and offensive taste is not a crime.  Freedom of speech is effectively a "right to offend" and no matter how offensive the speech, it must be protected by the state.
  3. The appropriate way for sensible, mature people to respond to the crass stupidity displayed by Hussain is to (a) ignore him, and (b) to not buy such of his work that doesn't please them. Let's exercise judgement in each individual case. His horses series might still be OK to buy, but his other work should be ignored.
  4. On the other hand, should anyone have suffered directly (e.g. have lost sleep that caused direct economic detriment) as a result of his paintings, he/she could have lodged a civil suit for compensation (now it is too late for that since Hussain is dead).  
  5. It is important to point out that none of Hussain's actions, no matter how stupid, give cause to anyone in India to physically harm him or destroy his work.
  6. This points to the fact that it was at all times  the responsibility of the Indian government to ensure Hussain's security and defend him from lumpen elements that wanted to harm him.

 Even stupid artists (like Hussain) deserve to be protected by the free society. That is the price we pay for liberty.


Link to M F Husain In Memoriam


Sanjeev Sabhlok

View more posts from this author
33 thoughts on “Evaluating M.F. Hussain’s naked Hindu Goddess paintings
  1. Kishan

    The extracts of Hussain's interview by Shekhar Gupta provided by you show that Hussain was not a stupid artist as you infer but a communal artist when he painted the Hindu goddesses naked. Any stupidity is forgivable but a communal act must be dealt with as such.Perhaps that is the reason that the secular Indian govt did not think it fit to listen to so many stupid rants to invite Hussain back to India.They just paid token lip service. Or may be it was a more cynical calculation that the secularist vote bank does not get affected one way or the other.
    One of Hussains contemporaries of the Bombay Progressive Artists Group who also is a Muslim has said that Hussain should have come back to India and sorted the dispute out across the table while the govt provided full security.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Kishan

    Painting something is subject to interpretation. His interview was unsatisfactory but on the whole I don’t see evidence that it was a “communal act” (whatever that means).

    Indeed, can you please be precise – which law did Hussain break by making these paintings? These were distasteful and offensive. But in a free society everyone has a right to offend. That’s not a crime. Only stupid people offend but offending others is not a criminal act.


  3. Kishan

    I am not a legal expert but logic suggests that if making some kind of speech is termed a communal offence, paintings by a famous painter which are widely viewed and that depict religious idols in objectionable ways also can be termed similarly.Interpreting the paintings of Hindu goddesses by Hussain is not subjective, I think every Hindu will view them similarly, excluding the so-called secular politicians.Painting humans/horses and painting goddesses are different.

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Kishan

    I’m afraid the laws you are referring to (about incitement to communal violence) have a much higher standard of proof than just a painting which is exhibited PRIVATELY in someone’s home or gallery. The test would assess the nature of the comments made, and the deliberate act of PROMOTING religious disharmony, if any.

    I’d need much stronger evidence (than just his paintings and his refusal to answer why he makes a special exemption for the Prophet) before I’d agree with you that the act of making a painting is a criminal offence.

    It is offensive, but not a crime.

    Btw, the precise law in this matter is provided in s. 153 of the IPC. You’d need to read case law to understand what precisely is the level of proof needed.

    Section 153A of the IPC states:
    Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony

    1[153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

    (1) Whoever

    (a) By words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or

    (b) Commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility, 2[or]

    2[(c) Organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence of knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,]

    Shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

    Offence committed in place of worship, etc.- (2) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.]

  5. Kishan

    But Sanjeevji many books have been banned in India on the plea that they will hurt religious feelings.That they will promote enmity will require really a great stretch of imagination.Does the same logic not apply here?

  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Kishan

    The free society should not ban ANY book under any circumstance. Yes, the governments in India do ban a lot of books but that is a BAD thing, not a good thing. Are we as citizens so childish that we can’t decide the validity of something and will believe in something merely because it is written in a book?

    I do suggest reading the case law re: 153. The tests are much higher and anything that is merely an opinion (no matter how stupid or reprehensible) is something that a grown up adult is supposed to be able to listen, and IGNORE, if it is inappropriate.

    We are not obliged to see Hussain’s paintings. We can ignore his work. So also for books.

    I think we ought to move in the direction of greater freedom of speech than less. As I wrote, “Even stupid artists (like Hussain) deserve to be protected by the free society. That is the price we pay for liberty.”

    We must be willing to grow up into a free society and not be so afraid of the opinions of stupid people that we have to ban their writings. Are we afraid of Hussain? If not then let him roam around and say whatever he wishes (of course I’m not referring to him since he is dead but more broadly to those artists who don’t abide by the norms of responsibility). “Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words will never hurt me)”.

    But making inflammatory speeches to directly incite communal violence is a quite a different matter. That’s what s153 is primarily directed at.

    Let this man rest in peace. He was a fool to make such paintings and let that be his lasting memory – that he damaged his own reputation as an artist by doing stupid things.

    The other lesson for everyone is this – when faced by offensive people, just ignore them. Don’t go out of the way to see their paintings.


  7. Kishan

    It is an absolutely valid argument that we should move towards more freedom but as you yourself say freedom does not mean licence. But my argument is not that. It is about discrimination and appeasement.

  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Krishan

    There are many ways in this world to live as a mature society. It is not for me to suggest all these methods, but surely we can’t allow ourselves to be bothered by the fanatics or fools who are naturally part of any society.

    By asking our government to do less, and by ignoring these fanatics and fools, we are all better off. After all, each time we empower the government to do something it will ultimately misuse that power (e.g. the treatment of Ramdev in Delhi recently). So I recommend that we avoid giving too many functions to the government.


  9. Bhagwad Jal Park

    I agree Sanjeev. Perhaps in my eagerness to emphasize that Husain had a right to do as he wished, I glossed over the fact that hurting other people makes you a jerk. I've not claimed that Husain did a "nice" thing by hurting people. Quite the contrary.
    I made the same point when Terry Jones burnt the koran.  He was a jerk, but not a criminal:
    (Incidentally this shows I'm not biased against Hindus. I support FoE regardless of which religion it offends.)
    My position however is that being a jerk is not illegal. You can choose not to buy Husain's paintings. And you certainly don't have to "lump" it. You can respond in kind by painting a funny cartoon of him, writing a poem, an editorial against his paintings or whatever – but NOT use violence against him or his works.
    Finally, I don't care about being a liberal at all. I've openly admitted that there are some contradictions in my mind about being a "pure" liberal which I've discussed in my post: – sex on the roads being one example and drug regulation being another.
    I prefer to take each case as it comes and not look to a set of rules to decide beforehand what my reaction will be. It's true that most of the time my reactions are "liberal" but it's not a fixed rule since I don't wish to subscribe to any particular school of thought.

  10. Shreyas

    Art , science ,philosophy etc are subjects which can only be propogatated by people who dare to think out of box ,and normal mediocre people of those times would never understand , And any sort of "Artistic licence" would ruin any possibility new benchmarks or new boundries , Even Albert Einstine was considered retarded in his early years because he was different, another example is Ramanujam a genius mathematician who use to fail in his school but knew somthing which is even not known to many today.
    Now comming to the point about the nudity of godesses, Why are these self appointed preservers of religions are not demolising the temples of Khajuraho which is most open exhibition of nudity of gods and godesses , were the people of those time  "stupid artists" who had only sculpted something which is very natrual and done by all the humans ,Now comming to Hinduism , 99% of Hindus(forget about of other religion) dont understand what the hindu philosophy(the most advanced of all religion) aims at . Tantra is a branch which uses sex to attain super conciousness. And now today this country has been meritoriously ranked 4th  most dangereous place for women on this planet by Reuters because of huge prostitution (40% are below 18)and foeticide , Cant we see these mindboggling figures that Indians are perverted. And these are people who are shouting slogan against nudity.
    I am not a art exponent  but I think Hussains dipection of Godesses if are not liked by the masses could have been IGNORED , We need to be little intelligent.

  11. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Shreyas

    People have the right to be outraged. Just as a stupid artist has the “right” to distort the mythology of a particular religion, those offended have a right to be outraged and to express it. Yes, they should then ignore that artist if they wish.

    I’m particularly conscious here that Hussain depicted Sita in compromising poses when it is clear in Hindu mythology that she remained chaste and indeed, is given as an example of chastity. That was not a mere depiction of the form used in ancient temples like Khajuraho, but a falsification of a myth and lowering of Sita’s status in the minds of the viewers. A deliberate destruction of an icon, if you wish – pretty much in the manner that Mohammed destroyed the icons in the Kaaba. While Hussain won’t paint the Prophet, he is happy to destroy the respectful mythology about Sita and others. Khajuraho does NOT come in that category – or at least I’ve not heard that it distorts Hindu mythology.

    If Hussain had understood the sentiment attributed to these different goddesses – a sentiment that is far greater than the sentiment he seemingly had towards Mohammed – he would have known where to draw a line. He was therefore stupid. Bhagwad has used a stronger word that I don’t generally use, but indeed, he went beyond the “Lakshman rekha”. Let that be widely understood. Art is not license to distort other’s religions.

    When you enter a temple you fold your hands. Even I do – regardless of whether I believe in a particular theory of God or not. Making imagery of gods is pretty much like entering a temple.


  12. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks, Bhagwad. Entirely agree with this clarificatory comment.

    May I suggest that the possible contradictions you observe in your world view are attributable to an incorrect view of what liberty means? The concept of liberty has a long history and it leads to a balanced view which does not follow the slippery slope of the socialists (that the government knows more than us) or of the libertarians (that everyone has the freedom to do whatever they please). A justice oriented view of liberty – which is what I propound – brings about the necessary balance.

    I urge you to read up the first four chapters of my draft manuscript, DOF ( – and correct your views. Once you’ve done that I believe you’ll not face any (serious) contradictions.


  13. AAryan

    If a person collects the porn videos, pictures of the persons which were taken without their permission, then the person is considered as obscenely deviant. He is a sexual criminal. If a person displays any obscene material in public places is a criminal act. Why MFH (the porn artist) didn’t faced any trial is a big Q?

    In the United States, distribution of “obscene” materials is a federal crime.
    Definition ( An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious. The term is also applied to an object that incorporates such a statement or displays such an act.

    || namO Bhaartam, namO Sanskritam ||

  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Aaryan

    I’m afraid your reference is bit far fetched in this case. (a) Does MH’s depiction constitute porn? I don’t think so. It is no doubt a kind of art, although in very poor taste. (b) Was it displayed by HIM in public places? I don’t think so. (c) Does US law apply to India? I don’t think so.

    Pl. provide specific reference to any Indian law which would imply that MH had committed a CRIME.


  15. AAryan

    a. Please watch all his paintings, for clarfication. (They are not direct, but indirect like Sita/Hanuman, Durga/Lion, Elephant/woman etc.).
    b. His paintings were displayed in Delhi Airport, Museum in Goa, exhibitions at the art colleges, etc . 
    c. I have not much knowledge of Law on this issue, thus quoted U.S Law for reference. The closest I came across is IPC Sction 292.

  16. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Aaryan

    a) I think on this matter you’d need to defer to specialists in art. I don’t think his work even remotely qualifies as porn. Legal case study on this would be useful.

    b) Which paintings are displayed? Do they, in your view qualify as “porn”? Pl. be very specific. General mud-slinging is not a good idea.

    c) s.292 is a ridiculous section – it totally violates basic liberties. But even under that section this is not covered, because this is not “lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect, or (where it comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items, is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.”

    I suspect case law has distinguished between this and art. For otherwise Khajuraho should be banned and the book sales of Kamasutra should be banned across India. In any event this section is extremely problematic. I don’t see what business a government has in the private lives of citizens (e.g. “has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever”). Who does the Indian government think it is? Our mummy daddy? Is India a nanny state? Can’t its citizens decide things for themselves?


  17. Suresh

    Dear Sanjeev,
    I refer to the interview with Shekhar Gupta you quoted in your blog, where MF refused to respond to the question relating to the Prophet.  I did some research and found that MF has indeed answered this very question elsewhere: see  
    In particular:
    "…….When I was doing this, some conservative Muslims told me, why don’t you paint on Islamic themes? I said, does Islam have the same tolerance? If you get even the calligraphy wrong, they can tear down a screen. I’ve painted hundreds of Ganeshas in my lifetime — it is such a delightful form. I always paint a Ganesha before I begin on any large work. I also love the iconography of Shiva. The Nataraj — one of the most complex forms in the world — has evolved over thousands of years and, almost like an Einstein equation, it is the result of deep philosophical and mathematical calculations about the nature of the cosmos and physical reality. When my daughter, Raeesa wanted to get married, she did not want any ceremonies, so I drew a card announcing her marriage and sent it to relatives across the world. On the card, I had painted Parvati sitting on Shiva’s thigh, with his hand on her breast — the first marriage in the cosmos. Nudity, in Hindu culture, is a metaphor for purity. Would I insult that which I feel so close to? I come from the Suleimani community, a sub-sect of the Shias, and we have many affinities with Hindus, including the idea of reincarnation. As cultures, it is Judaism and Christianity that are emotionally more distant. But it is impossible to discuss all this with those who oppose me. Talk to them about Khajuraho, they will tell you its sculpture was built to encourage population growth and has outgrown its utility! (laughs) It is people in the villages who understand the sensual, living, evolving nature of Hindu gods. They just put orange paint on a rock, and it comes to stand for Hanuman."
    Recently I have watched several interviews with MF and homages paid to him on TV. Overall I am convinced that he simply painted from his heart and never with the intention of insulting any faith. It came through clearly that he respected Hindu tradition much more than any other faith mainly because of the broadminded approach in Hinduism. Yes,  I do agree that he should have been a bit more careful not to hurt the common folk's sentiments, but in this regard I feel he was more of a simpleton than arrogant.
    Overall,  I do admire the person very much. As for his art, I do find most of his paintings quite appealing to my simple taste. If I had that kind of money, I would definitely put up several of his paintings, along with many others, in my house. But yes, none of those depicting overt sexuality, be it relating to Hindu gods or otherwise. However one of the paintings deeply deplored by the fundamentalists, His "Bharat Mata", I do like very much.

  18. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Suresh

    Much about art is a matter of personal taste. None can mandate a general rule on that. I’m not a great fan of MF but as I wrote that is irrelevant to the discussion about the controversy that is raging about MF.

    I don’t agree with his idea of painting Hindu goddesses merely because Muslims are intolerant. That’s not a good excuse. Just because someone is tolerant is not a reason to trash that person’s beliefs.

    Further, some of his depictions were easily subject to two opinions, including that he was insensitive to the sentiments that Hindus hold towards these goddesses. Just because there are some interesting Hindu gods, these are not ordinary objects for a painter. Without understanding the sentiments that people hold towards these gods, it would be inappropriate to paint them in all kinds of reckless ways.

    As I said this is ultimately a matter of good judgement. MF lacked such judgement. That, however, is all the more reason for a free society to protect its citizens. Even fools deserve protection. Else the idea of freedom has no meaning.


  19. AAryan

    Sanjeev: I like to display common sense rather than intellect in analysing the art, society and culture.
    a. His paintings on Gods are sexually explicit. I do not need experts to tell that.
    b. Mud-slinging is a character assasination. You don't expect it from me. Rather MFH did in the pretext of his love towards hindu Gods and considering Hindusim as a tolerant religion. As Suresh says, he adored hinduism and their Gods, then painting them nude is utter foolishness.
    c. I agree that we do not have a proper law and eforcement to bring such pervert acts under scrutiny.  
    Lastly, Khajuraho (in a remote area) and Kamasutra are labelled as sexually explicit and is meant for adults only. They do not show Gods in compromising position.
    || namO Bhaartam, namO Sanskritam ||

  20. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Aaryan

    Your points are definitely valid from your perspective. I would question, though, whether such things require government regulation. On matters where different people have different views, and the piece of work is not purchased by a government gallery but privately, then we are welcome to our views but we can’t criminalise it.

    By all means condemn it, don’t see it, don’t buy it. But we don’t want a government that trespasses the liberty even of fools. As a citizen one may feel anything, but that wouldn’t automatically lead to government intervention.


  21. AAryan

    Government intervention is required to ensure the social changes are progressive and civilised.
    If so it will be tough to justify cyber-laws as discussed in FTI.
    || namO Bhaartam, namO Sanskritam ||

  22. AAryan

    Please modify my comment to:
    Government intervention is required to ensure the social changes are progressive and civilised.
    If so it will be tough to justify cyber-laws for obscenity, pornography etc.

    Reference to FTI is incorrect as of it stands today. I was under an impression that I had read about internet policing on FTI. 


  23. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. Let me make clear that my views are not necessarily FTI views, and that FTI has not yet discussed and formed a view on many of these matters. We do have general principles of liberty subject to accountability – that we all believe in.

  24. Shravan

    It does not matter if Husain was stupid or communal or occultist,
    He deserves the worst punishment of all which is To be ignored and forgotten.
    I do not believe there was a threat to his life, this is all leftist nonsense.

  25. sumedh

    Came across this blog post a few years late.

    Its a decent take on the issue but is mistaken as far as understanding or interpretation of law is concerned. The author quoted sections of law in comments and said “It is offensive, but not a crime.” and “The free society should not ban ANY book under any circumstance…”.

    Supreme Court has upheld bans on books on more than one occasion, and consistently so. Clearly the author would like to see a much narrower scope of applicability of law in such cases, but that is not the case presently. It is the lawmakers who need to be persuaded to do otherwise.

    Note that a simplistic “incite to violence” is hardly adequate as a starting point eg the Charlie Hebdo case can be interpreted so as evidence shows but hardly any rational person would consider it as a fit case of limits of liberty.

  26. Sanjayb

    How about 295a IPC ! MF Hussain definitely committed offence described this section of IPC !

  27. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    The idea that there can be an offence caused when someone makes a painting is fundamentally flawed and therefore all such barbaric “laws” must go.

    Does India want to become a civilised country at some stage, or not?

  28. Lokesh Raina

    In Islamic Law, you cannot make human or animal representations (reason why in Islamic art you will not find a human face or figure, this is true of every Islamic monument anywhere in the world.) So do we call Islamic law barbarous? Pl explain.

  29. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    What people do or not do non-violently (e.g. draw/ not draw)is THEIR PRIVATE BUSINESS.

    Yes, you are free to comment on their approach to life.

    BUT NEVER CAN VIOLENCE BE USED. That’s the key point, which Muslim fanatics and Hindutva fanatics do not seem to understand.

    It is not Islamic law that is barbarous (in that sense) but those who use violence to respond to non-violent expression.