M.F. Husain surrenders passport

Legendary painter M.F. Husain, who was recently granted Qatari citizenship, has surrendered his Indian passport to the country’s mission in Doha, a media report said on Monday.

95-year-old Husain, revered by many as India’s Picasso, on Sunday went to the country’s mission in Doha and surrendered his Indian passport, the Gulf Times reported. Husain, who has been living in self-imposed exile for nearly four years following a spate of cases in India over his controversial paintings of Hindu goddesses, had accepted Qatar’s offer and would no longer be an Indian, said his son Owais Husain.

India does not recognise dual citizenship. So, “in such a situation, surrendering passport by the person concerned is mandatory and Husain has only done that,” an Indian Embassy official was quoted as saying by the paper.

The artist has also applied for the Overseas Citizen of India card, the mission sources said, adding the embassy has facilitated all requirements for him to obtain the OCI card.

He also had a nearly two-hour meeting with Indian Ambassador in Qatar Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, the sources said. Husain, who shuttles between Dubai and London, went in exile after a hate campaign was launched against him in 2006 over his controversial paintings.

Several cases were filed against him by people protesting his portrayal of Hindu goddesses in the nude. His house was attacked and art works vandalised by fundamentalists in India. Indian government has described Husain as “pride of India” and said it was willing to provide security to him.

“There is no case against M F Husain. Supreme Court has quashed all the cases against him,” Home Secretary G K Pillai had recently said. He said the government was ready to provide security to the artist if he planned to return.

“He (Husain) is the pride of India,” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao had said, adding, “I would like him to feel safe and secure in India”.

After handing over his passport, Husain said though he was giving up the Indian citizenship he would continue to be known as an Indian and he was only proud about that. Husain said he was returning the Indian passport as dual citizenship was not allowed by both India and Qatar.

“Citizenship and passport were a matter of a piece of paper. Accepting Qatar citizenship would not mean that I would cease to be an Indian or artist of India. Remaining an Indian would be my birthright and there are millions in India who still love me,” Husain was quoted as saying by the Gulf edition of Malayalam daily Madhyamam.

India is a country with rich cultural heritage and only minuscule minuscule minority ignorant of its liberal traditions who had made a hue and cry over my pictures, said Husain.

“Art is universal and something that transcends all artificial boundaries. I am just a living being in the universe created by God. I will have a small patch of land on the earth when I die. Where I am going to be buried on this earth is not a problem that affects me,” he said.

Asked if his acceptance of Qatari citizenship was a ploy to overcome income tax problems in India, Husain said he was a person who paid income tax in India for his paintings sold in Singapore for Rs 25 crore.

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