The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi knives out for Husain

New Delhi, April 7: If the nationally important issue of wardrobe malfunction on the ramp is keeping the Maharashtra government preoccupied, nudes on M.F. Husain’s canvas are causing a flutter of activity at the centre of the country’s power.

Husain, who today moved the Supreme Court seeking transfer to Delhi of criminal complaints filed against him in Indore and Rajkot “for outraging religious sentiments” with his works, does not know he might be jumping from the frying pan to the fire as the home ministry had put the Intelligence Bureau on him.

After receiving the IB report that said paintings such as Bharat Mata and other nude images of Hindu deities can cause communal trouble, the ministry, under Shivraj Patil, is considering prosecuting the 91-year-old painter under a section of the Indian Penal Code.

The IB report suggested that the government should take damage control steps.

Sources said the law ministry, whose opinion had been sought, has said Husain can be prosecuted under Section 295A, which deals with outraging religious feelings of a community.

The home ministry section dealing with human rights had sent photographs of seven-eight paintings by Husain to the law ministry.

These paintings are Hanuman opposite Sita sitting on the thigh of a naked Ravana, nude Sita on the long tail of Hanuman, bull copulating with Parvati and Shankar watching on Shivratri, Durga in sexual union with a tiger, nude Laxmi on the head of Ganesh, nude Saraswati playing the Veena and Bharat Mata in the nude.

On the Bharat Mata painting, the law ministry has said it does not violate either the State Emblems Act or the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and Husain cannot be prosecuted for this work.

Before it makes a decision, the big question for the government is if it should risk being clubbed with radical Hindu outfits by starting prosecution or simply put Husain on a leash by serving him a warning or a notice.

The sources said though the home ministry was divided, the majority opinion was in favour of filing a case against the painter. It is a decision the ministry will, obviously, not take without consulting the Prime Minister’s Office.

Faced with threats to his life in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, where rewards have been announced for killing or mutilating him, Husain has requested the Supreme Court to club the cases in Indore and Rajkot with a similar complaint filed in the Patiala House courts in Delhi so that the hearings are held in the capital.

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