A painter from Assam is at the centre of a storm for a work of art depicting liquor bottles and undergarments pouring out of an unfurled tricolor.
Akram Hussain, a resident of Goalpara, had earlier rubbed religious organisations the wrong way with a Rasleela-themed painting in a bar that featured Lord Krishna surrounded by bikini-clad women.
Hussain’s painting with the national flag was part of an exhibition held at the State Art Gallery in Guwahati a few days ago.
But his “objectionable” artwork went virtually unnoticed until advocate Dharmananda Deb filed an FIR last week against him and the gallery in Silchar, located 345 km south of Guwahati.
The Hindu Jagaran Manch too filed a complaint at Latasil police station in Guwahati.
Deputy commissioner of police (Guwahati central) Amitava Sinha said the paintings were removed after the complaints were filed. “But we are looking into the matter,” he said.
Hussain could not be contacted, with police saying he might have gone into hiding.
Users of social networking sites bayed for Hussain’s blood and the the Assam branch of the All India Patriotic Forum condemned his act of “dishonouring the national flag in the name of artistic freedom”.
“By symbolically drawing an unfurled tricolour pouring liquor bottles, undergarments and other objectionable items, Hussain has shown Indian civilisation, culture, religion and heritage in poor light. This is an unforgivable offence,” said a statement from the forum.
The forum added: “Under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971, whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to the national flag, deserves to be punished.”
The Assam Satra Mahasabha, which controls Vaishnavite monasteries, too condemned Hussain for his “blasphemous depiction of Lord Krishna”.
Several NGOs such as the Assam Public Works and Patriotic People’s Front have lent their support to the demand for strict action against Hussain. They criticised the Assam directorate of cultural affairs for allowing the exhibition of “objectionable” paintings.
But some Assam-based painters have defended Hussain, saying an artist can draw whatever he feels like.