Painter MF Hussain gives up Indian citizenship

MUMBAI: India’s best-known painter, MF Hussain, who was forced into exile due to death threats from Hindu hardliners, confirmed he had accepted Qatari citizenship in an interview broadcast today.

The 94-year-old Muslim artist told the NDTV news channel that he had no regrets about giving up his Indian passport, saying it was the only way he could continue working.

“At the age of 40, I would have fought them tooth and nail but I just wanted to concentrate only on my work. I don’t want any disturbances,” he said.

Husain went into self-imposed exile in 2006 in Dubai and Doha when a Hindu group offered a reward of millions of dollars for his death after he painted a revered Hindu goddess in the nude. He said he was now content to be a non-resident Indian and that he had no qualms about losing his nationality, as India does not allow dual citizenship.

“What’s citizenship? It’s just a piece of paper,” he said, adding

in Hindi: “Wherever I

find love I will accept

it.” In English he added: “Ninety-nine percent

of Indian people loved

me and they still love me. I’m an Indian-origin painter. I will remain so to my last breath.”

Hussain is one of India’s wealthiest painters. In 2008, one of his works fetched $1.6 million at a Christie’s auction in New York.

Last week India’s Home

Secretary GK Pillai said Hussain was free to return to the country and that security would be provided for him if he wished.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad — the Hindu group that has

spearheaded the anti-Hussain campaign with fellow right-wingers the Shiv Sena — said it would be glad if the artist gave up his Indian citizenship.