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Husain’s painting angers VHP

February 08, 2006

MUMBAI, Feb 7: A painting depicting ‘Mother India’ as a naked woman by the country’s best-known artist has been pulled from an auction after protests by hardline Hindu groups, the auctioneers said on Tuesday.

The work by Maqbool Fida Husain, for sale as part of a fund-raising appeal for victims of last year’s earthquake, was removed from the sale list to defuse high tensions, the online art house said.

The canvas ‘Bharat Mata’ — Mother India — showed a bare-chested woman whose form represented the outline of India with names of major cities written on her body.

It had a reserve price of 700,000 rupees (15,900 dollars) but was pulled after protests across India by hardline groups.

“There have been protests about the painting. We contacted the artist and he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” said Sharan Apparao, the head of Apparaoart Auctions.

“Of course we’re unhappy but sometimes you have to do things like this.”

Three paintings by Mr Husain depicting Hindu goddesses in the nude attracted the anger of hardline Hindu groups in 1996.

The groups demanded the arrest of India’s most highly regarded contemporary artist.

Vyankatesh Abdeo, all-India joint secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), said it had staged a number of protests over the painting.

“Just because there’s a cartoon of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the whole Muslim world is up and protesting,” he said.

“M.F. Husain is repeatedly portraying Hindu gods and goddesses in a state of nudity.”

The artist, 90, celebrated in Indian art circles, has also made two films and was formerly a member of parliament. —AFP