Artists’ protest statement in support of M.F. Husain


We are by now past the first sense of shock and distress against the assault on our renowned artist-colleague, M.F. Husain. The criminal complaint against Husain in Bombay by its cultural affairs minister and the destruction of his artworks in his Ahmedabad Gallery by Bajrang Dal vandals signal a sordid regression in our collective cultural conscience.

This signal appears ironically in the fiftieth year of Indian independence, and needs analysis and resistance from the entire artist community, from the intelligentsia, and from the media. And above all, from the great majority of the Indian people who believe in the fundamental values of democracy and cultural creativity. Inheritors of a syncretic civilization, this majority, drawn from every class and caste and religion, has proved its will time and again. Despite all efforts to mislead and distort the nation’s vision through a vicious communal ideology, the people have opted for individual honour, for a composite society, for a secular India.

At this stage the artists have to sustain the effort to both celebrate and critique our cultural heritage. M.F. Husain has always


been a celebrative artist, affirming this country’s polyphonic culture and elaborating its myths and iconography into the contemporary arena. Today, after an amazingly productive fifty-year career, he is being  targeted because he is a Muslim. This is likely to be followed by an attack on modernity and on all those who critically intervene in the ongoing social processes. The support for artists’ freedom is a support for a complex representation of our history and our selves by imaginative contemporaries.

This involves a long view on the future of the arts in modern India. On an immediate level we seek your support in demanding:

  1. Action against the arsonists who burnt M.F. Husain’s artworks in Ahmedabad.
  2. Withdrawal of criminal charges/communal litigation against M.F. Husain.
  3. Condemnation by the highest representatives of the State and by the people at large of the ideology that fuelled the fire of the arsonists.
  4. Adequate State protection for M.F. Husain, his family, his artworks.
  5. Adequate State protection for galleries and institutions that exhibit art.