New Delhi: Drawing parallels between the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie and the "pain and anguish" his father went through, late painter M F Husain`s artist-son Shamshad today said the protests against the author were "awful" and initiated by some "unscrupulous elements" who knew nothing about art or literature.
Shamshad, himself a painter, said everyone in the country had the freedom of speech and expression and "no one can take that away just because some groups claim their sentiments were hurt".
Describing the cancellation of a video address by `The Satanic Verses` writer at the Jaipur Literature Festival as "terrible", Shamshad told reporters, "Whatever is happening to Salman is awful. I`m sure the unscrupulous elements behind the protest know little about art or literature. They are protesting just for the sake of it."
"What I don`t understand is why do people protest years after the work was actually done. Even in my father`s case protests over his painting erupted 20 years after he did his work. The same thing is happening to Salman," he said.
Husain had been on a self-imposed exile from 2006 till his death in 2011 after he earned the wrath of right-wing Hindu groups, which accused him of "hurting sentiments of people" because of his nude portraits of Hindu gods and goddesses.
"I am surprised no action has been taken against the protesters or the so-called threats, be it in my father`s case or Salman`s. By caving into the threats the government has shown how weak-minded it is," Shamshad said.
Stating that his father wanted to come back to India till he breathed his last, Husain said the "pain and anguish" of being "forcefully separated" from the country of one`s birth is an emotion few can understand.
"My father wanted to come back till the very end. But if people in the country are going to continue treating artistes, who have done no wrong except express their mind, this way then few will ever return home," he said.
The much-anticipated video address by Rushdie at the ongoing JLF was cancelled at the last moment today because of fears of violence as Muslim organisations staged protests.
The decision to call off the video address by the `Satanic Verses` writer came after a meeting festival organisers had with leaders of Muslim organisations.
Rushdie`s `The Satanic Verses` has been banned in India for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community. The book cast a shadow on the Festival when four authors read out passages from it leading to complaints against them and the organisers in courts in Jaipur and Ajmer.