New Delhi: MF Husain was both loved and loathed in equal measures. Husain was a great modern artist, but he was always more than just his art. In the last years of his life, controversy followed him almost at every step. For right-wing Hindu groups, Husian became a hate figure.
In the mid 1990s, some of Husain's works from an earlier period became controversial because of their portrayal of Hindu deities. His exhibitions were attacked, several dozen criminal complaints were filed against him and he started getting hate mails and threats from across India.
In 2006, he decided to leave the country never to return eventually accepting Qautari citizenship last year.
"The least we can do as a state today would be to set up a Husain Museum and give him a Bharat Ratna posthumously," said S Kalidas.
Today, as news of Husain's death in a London hospital spread, the Congress was quick to pay tribute to the artist even while questioning the manner in which he was hounded out.
"BJP symbolised that hardcore communal thought ...there were some reactionary organisations which took direct action against Husain," said Digvijaya Singh.
"He was a controversial artist but an Indian and a great painter. His last rites should be performed as per the wishes of his family and friends," said BJP general secretary Anant Kumar.
The home ministry did make an effort to encourage him to return to India but it was too little too late. Husain had turned his back on a fanatical streak in India which he could no longer identify with. But was Husain deliberately controversial? For example while painting a nude Bharat Mata across the map of India or simply expressing his fierce individuality.
That arguably India's greatest artist died in exile is perhaps a reminder of the wave of intolerance that has swept across certain sections of our society. His art and life though was always greater than what his critics would have us imagine.