To Mr. M. F. Husain: With freedom comes responsibility

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“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” –George Bernard Shaw
The most crucial aspect for the well being of people in any society is the freedom to express one’s self; especially in a democratic one like ours. We are granted this freedom but what most people forget is that with freedom comes responsibility; responsibility to use the freedom for good and not harm; responsibility to know where to draw the line. One’s freedom of expression ends when it begins to hurt others. This is what Mr. M. F. Husain and his followers have forgotten.

If we were to allow freedom of expression in its complete form, why do we need censors? Usage of foul language too can be considered as a form of expression. Violence too is expressing one’s anger. Nudity in movies too may be another. But why do we have restrictions and censors on all these forms of expression and decide to make art an exception? If absolute freedom of expression is granted to art, then I can argue why not to these other forms?

There is this new trend in our society where it is cool to be ‘arty’. People all over have suddenly become art laureates and defenders of this form of expression without realizing that expression does not mean not giving a damn about how your expressed views hurt others.

We had a debate in one of the lectures at our college. Our faculty asked us who was with M.F. Husain on his freedom to draw nudes of Hindu Goddesses and almost the whole class supported Mr. Husain. I was one of the few who disagreed with him and I faced opposition for that too! Now don’t get me wrong. I am not much of a religious person. What M. F. Husain did, did not hurt my sentiments at all. I was pretty cool with it.
M. F. Husain has painted nudes of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Sita and many more Goddesses. Nudes may be his style of painting but depicting Hindu Goddesses naked in a country like ours, which is so diverse in its religion and culture; where just a spark is enough to set ablaze the entire country, doesn’t score good marks for Mr. Husain on practicality either.

When a Danish cartoonist made cartoons on Prophet Mohammad, there was a huge outcry by the Muslims all over the world and that too, a justifiable outcry. No one questioned them and I too agree with them and support them. But when in India, Hindus raise questions over nude paintings of their Goddesses, why does the question of artistic freedom suddenly rise up? Do Hindus not have a right to express themselves? Can’t they be offended?

We have to remember that the freedom to express one’s self is a right which we as humans have given to each other in order to prevent injustice to anyone in the society. If one is going to use this freedom itself to hurt others, what is the use of this right? We are nullifying the very essence of this right which has been provided to us. Please let us use this wonderful right sensibly. Let us protect the sensibility of the freedom given to us and also along with it carry on our shoulders the responsibility it brings along.
So Mr. M.F. Husain, please remember that though you have the right to say what you want to, you have no right to offend others.

“We must stress that rights carry with them an inherent responsibility, and should not be used to degrade, humiliate or insult any group or individual.” – Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, on artistic freedom.

Dipen Shah

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