MF Hussain Supporters and critics
The artistic community was supportive as well as critical. Krishan Khanna, one of Husain's contemporaries, stated that "It's not just Husain's but the entire artist community's lives which are at stake. Anybody and everybody can file a case against us now. Anyone can infringe upon our lives". Others who have expressed anger at the "vicious campaigns" against Husain, include filmmaker Saeed Mirza, social activist Nafisa Ali, theatre personality M. K. Raina and a host of other artistes, art critics and art gallery owners. Salil Tripathi, writing in the International Herald Tribune, notes that Hindu goddesses have regularly been portrayed in the nude by Hindu artists. Tripathi asserts that,
“ It is hypocritical to place curbs on Husain's artistic freedom. What's more shameful is that a government that claims to be the secular alternative to Hindu nationalists is threatening to prosecute Husain. This does not do India proud; it adds to India's disgrace. ”
Other Indian artists expressed criticism. Satish Gujral went on record to ask Husain whether he will be bold enough to treat icons of Islam in the same manner. However Gujral says he deeply regrets the way Husain was treated and forced into an exile because of what he terms "the mob culture". According to a senior Hindu artist and former President, Bombay Art Society, Gopal Adivrekar,
“ Nothing is bad in being creative but the artists should not go for such artwork, which may hurt the sentiments of a segment of the society. ”
Writing in The Pioneer, Chandan Mitra wrote,
“ As long as such a law exists in the statutes, nobody can be faulted for approaching the courts against Hussain's objectionable paintings, nor can the judiciary be pilloried for ordering action against the artist for his persistent and deliberate refusal to appear before the court. ”
In response to the controversy, Husain's admirers petitioned the government to grant Husain the Bharat Ratna, India's highest award. According to Shashi Tharoor, who supported the petition, it praised Husain because his "life and work are beginning to serve as an allegory for the changing modalities of the secular in modern India — and the challenges that the narrative of the nation holds for many of us. This is the opportune and crucial time to honour him for his dedication and courage to the cultural renaissance of his beloved country."
On his part Husain stated that Hindu leaders have not spoken a word against his paintings, and they should have been the first ones to have raised their voice.