London, May 25 (PTI): Bowing to pressure from the Hindu Forum of Britain, the Asia House here has abruptly cancelled a painting exhibition of M.F. Husain on “security” grounds.
The forum had alleged that Husain’s paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses had “outraged community members around the world”.
The exhibition was inaugurated by Indian high commissioner Kamalesh Sharma on May 10 and was to continue till August 5. However, after calls for its withdrawal by the forum and a threat of a demonstration before the venue by Hindu human rights campaigners on Saturday, the Asia House sent an e-mail saying it has cancelled the exhibition.
Economist Lord Meghnad Desai said last night that it was “an outrageous attack on artistic freedom in the British context”.
While Husain’s exhibition was cancelled, one of his paintings, titled Blue Girl and sketched in 1964, fetched £120,000 at a Sotheby’s auction here on Tuesday.
In the same auction, an untitled nude oil on canvas by India’s Francis Newton Souza went for £310,400. Another — Amsterdam, a landscape, 1961 — went for £624,000 — the second highest price for Souza’s work at any auction.
Meghnad Desai condemns campaign against Husain
LONDON: Academic and writer Meghnad Desai has attacked Britain's Hindu Human Rights Group for its campaign against painter M.F. Husain for allegedly "showing obscene images of Hindu goddesses."
An exhibition of his paintings, which was to have been held at the Asia House here, was cancelled for "security reasons" following protests by the group.
In a statement, Lord Desai called the protest an "outrageous attack on artistic freedom" and said it amounted to practising "censorship" in the guise of "Hindu human rights." Mr. Husain was being targeted because of his religion.
Lord Desai said: "Hindu goddesses can be seen in a variety of poses which many may find erotic in the temples of Khajuraho and Tirupati … and many others. Hindu society and religion are remarkably relaxed and tolerant about sexual practices of human beings as well as of their gods and goddesses.
"What we are witnessing is the import into the U.K. of a fanatical political group, which, under the guise of Hindu human rights, is practising censorship for which there is no sanction in Hindu religion. It is the duty of all citizens to stop this evil before it spreads too far into our body politic. The objection to Husain is not the so-called obscenity of his paintings. It is because he is a Muslim and hence, the Hindu fundamentalist groups deny [him] his artistic freedom to take Hindu gods and goddesses as his theme."
In a statement, the group said it decided to withdraw its protest after the Asia House cancelled the exhibition. It would "continue to monitor the situation and respond to any further development."