September 26, 2015

India:: MF Husain at 100: Hindu outfit Sanatan Sanstha still painting black

Daily O - 25-09-2015

MF Husain at 100: Hindu outfit Sanatan Sanstha still painting black It's curious that September 2015 has again brought the two face-to-face albeit with a slight difference.

  Damayanti Datta
It is ironic. The very month late MF Husain is in the news, the Sanatan Sanstha has also hit the headlines.
On September 17, Husain, would have turned 100, had he been alive. Instead, the country's most-prized artist had died in 2011 in London at age 96, after years of being in self-exile, and longing to return "home" till the end.
The Sanatan Sanstha, a little-known charitable trust, is now in the spotlight. One of its members, Samir Gaikwad, has been arrested for the murder of the veteran CPI leader and trade union activist Govind Pansare, 82, in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015.
Everyone knows why Husain left India in 2006. He was facing a vicious campaign of harassment, vandalisation, attacks, intimidation and death threats, for his artistic depiction of Hindu deities. When he left, he was on the verge of getting arrested, at best, and maimed, blinded or killed, at worst.
Not much is known about the Sanstha. It was set up in 1990 by "hypnotherapist" Jayant Balaji Athavale. According to its website, it provides "education on dharma in scientific terminology for the benefit of Hindus": spirituality to festivals, wedding to hair care, bathing to brushing teeth. Why? To help people negate "black energy" arising out of Raja-Tama (passion-ignorance) particles or waves all around them.
What's the link between Husain and Sanstha? Simply that, it was the active campaign of the Sanstha that had led to the artist's ouster. Surprisingly, the Sanstha was named in very few media reports of the time. But according to its own (original) website, it had started the "protest campaign" against Husain from November 13, 2005, with a "mass awakening among Hindus": about 28,000 online signatories from across the world, 1,250 police complaints against Husain, over 150 demonstrations, marches and effigy-burning, six press conferences and active support of over 250 protestors.
From March 2006, the district courts had started issuing simultaneous summons. On March 29, a Meerut court held that Husain had indeed hurt Hindu sentiments. Well-orchestrated protests took place outside Christie's auction house at Rockefeller Centre, New York, on March 30, with some driving down from Toronto, Canada, to stop auctioning of Husain's works (the auction fetched a record price of $5,76,000 for the artist).
Real politics came into play, with the then UPA home minister Shivraj Patil instructing Delhi and Mumbai police to take "appropriate action" against Husain in May. The Shiv Sena and BJP brought up the issue in Parliament. In Gujarat, Jashubhai Patel, announced a prize of one kilogram gold to anyone to gouge out Husain's eyes and cut off his right thumb. Not to be left behind, Akhtar Baig, vice-president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee in Indore announced Rs 11 lakh as reward for chopping off his hands.
Who took the cake? Ashok Pande of Lucknow, a lawyer nobody had heard of. Claiming to be the president of a non-profit called the Hindu Personal Law Board, he announced Rs 101 crore to kill Husain. Pande and his non-profit are closely linked to the Sanstha even now, often receiving congratulatory mentions in Sanatan Prabhat, a publication of the Sanstha, and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti website, a Sanstha mouthpiece.
It was ultimately the Supreme Court, which intervened (2008-10), refusing to initiate criminal proceedings against Husain or compel him to return to India. "There are many such pictures, paintings and sculptures and some of them are in temples," the bench held. The SC also concluded that Husain had not violated sections 292, 294, 298 or 500 of IPC - on obscenity, hurting religious sentiments, defamation and disrespect. It said: "In India, a new puritanism is being carried out in the name of cultural purity and a host of ignorant people are vandalising art and pushing us towards a pre-renaissance era."
Pande was hauled up in 2012 by the Gujarat High Court for a frivolous PIL. The court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him, as fine for moving a frivolous public interest litigation, and relented only after he deposited the Rs 25,000. Justices AL Dave and JB Pardiwala had dismissed the PIL with the comment: "Is this a publicity interest litigation or personal interest litigation?".
Yet, courts and even death have not been able to end the campaign. On September 17, Husain's 100th birthday, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti posted this: "Alert Hindus notified Forum for Hindu Awakening (FHA), about the celebration of MF Husain's 100th birth anniversary named as 'Husain at Hundred' at Aicon Gallery, in New York, USA which will be held from September 17 through October 24, 2015. Accordingly, Forum for Hindu Awakening wrote to the Aicon Gallery and the speaker of the exhibition, Sumathi Ramaswamy but there has been no response from them."
It's curious that September 2015 has again brought the two face-to-face - Husain vs Sanstha - albeit with a slight difference: Sanstha is on the dock now, and Husain, well beyond caring.