It is unfortunate that eminent painter M.F.Husain decided to relinquish his Indian citizenship in favor of a Qatari one. Indeed, it is not a rare instance in India as every year several hundred qualified Indians relinquish Indian citizenship in order to obtain one in the U.S , Canada or other countries where they believe they and their family can have a better quality of life, better education and material prospects. Some of them go on to win Nobel prizes and then we have no problem claiming them as our own sons and daughters and even trying to share some of their glory by piggy-backing on their achievements which we have a right to because of the achiever’s Indian roots/ genes or whatever. But what makes M.F.Husain’s case different is that an artist of great eminence, someone who took Indian art to the international galleries living in India, was compelled to leave the country because he did not feel safe in this country despite the government’s offer to provide his security.
It is tough for anyone to feel free when one feels the need to be constantly protected by security guards. While most V.I.P.’ s seem to get used to it a necessary evil, Husain must have found it very stifling given his history of roaming around barefoot and his preference for spending time with ordinary people rather than the rich and famous. And in today’s time where it seems tough for people in the limelight to open their mouths (or write or paint) without offending some group or other, he might never have been able to go back to his free lifestyle ever again. He has managed to offend certain people /groups through his work even by misinterpretation or misunderstanding but there is no going back – that shall shadow him forever. He may have apologized but still he remains a valuable whipping boy for these groups to settle their political/religious scores and gain public attention.

Did Husain realize this and is that is he chose to accept the Qatari citizenship when it was offered to him – to make his home in a place where he felt safe, honoured and accepted as well as send out a strong message to India about how unvalued he felt here after all his contributions?

But what might the government have done differently that might have prevented this apart from offering him and his museums high-level security?
Publicly defended the paintings that offended certain religious sensibilities in the name of artistic freedom and dismissed all cases against him summarily? That would still not have guaranteed 100% protection against vandalism or the ‘right’ of some section or other to feel offended by his works.
There are some sections that attribute his decision as an escape from the cases against him. But his citizenship still doesn’t offer him immunity from legal proceedings of pending cases. And given his stature and the ability to engage the best lawyers to argue his case, he certainly does not need to run away from the country fearing our legal system. He is neither a petty criminal nor a terrorist.
Artistic freedom is another reason that is cited by the elitist sections. But this does not seem to be the main reason going by the country whose citizenship he has accepted. In this article on the subject Vir Sanghvi asks:
Now that he has chosen to live in Qatar, the Hindutva-wallahs will ask the obvious questions: How much freedom will he have there? Of course the Arabs will let him paint naked Hindu goddesses. But will they let him paint anything that even remotely offends Muslims? Anything that offends the royal family? Nude portraits of previous rulers of Qatar? Or even, nude portraits of Arab women?
These are crude questions. But sadly, the answers are as crude. Husain will have no artistic freedom in Qatar. He will be no more than a court painter to a medieval monarch. So has he chosen to live in a society that values the artistic freedom that he says he is denied in India? Or has he just taken the soft, very profitable, option and forgotten all about artistic freedom?

Husain is certainly aware of the limitations to artistic freedom in his new country and yet chose to accept its citizenship so maybe it is not so much about artistic freedom at all.

Perhaps it is all about feeling wanted, valued and honoured in his own homeland Is it possible that he may have felt this if he had been honored with the Bharatratna? Is it too late for it even now? Does it matter that he is no longer an Indian citizen?

While all this may not matter to the painter himself anymore now that his decision is made. Let us hope that he is able to spend the rest of his life in peace giving full expression to his creativity and genius. But for us as a nation, this is probably a good time to introspect and see how we can make this into a nation that makes its people, ordinary or eminent, feel protected and wanted here and proudly hold the single identity of being Indian.