M F Hussain was a painter of great repute. Much of his reputation was based on painting Hindu goddesses and other mythological figures in the nude. This made him quite a favourite of the Congress eco-system in India. When some Hindus objected and went to court against him they were condemned for being unartistic and anti-Muslim. The courts of course provided Hussain protection. Freedom of expression, they said. Try to understand artistic expression, they explained.
Hussain attracted the ire of the left liberals only when he depicted Indira Gandhi as the goddess Durga. Durga was said to be the slayer of demons. Hussain referenced this memory to Indira Gandhi defeating the Pakistanis.
Noteworthy was that Hussain was careful to not paint a naked image of Indira Gandhi even in his version of the Durga avatar. When Hussain painted Durga alone, not as a version of Indira Gandhi, he promptly removed her clothes in his 1981 painting. He also had a tail emerging out of her naked butt.
In 1984, when Indira was assassinated by her own guards turned Sikh terrorists, Rajiv Gandhi took over as Prime Minister. When Hussain painted a portrait of Indira Gandhi which he presented to her son and the new Prime Minister of India, he once again took care to keep Indira fully clad in a sari. Later Priyanka Gandhi, the daughter of Rajiv, would claim that she had ‘sold’ a portrait of her father, Rajiv, done by Hussain, to one Rana Kapoor for Rs. 2 crore vide Priyanka’s letter to Rana Kapoor dated June 4, 2010. According to this letter, she received payment in cheque. #135343, drawn on HSBC, Ac No. 019-384890-006
Rajiv Lochan, is a renowned historian, scholar and columnist