M.F. Husain was on Friday buried according to Muslim religious rites at the Brookwood cemetery in Surrey, on the outskirts of London, as grieving family members and close friends prayed in silence.
The acclaimed artist passed away in a London hospital on Thursday at the age of 97.
Earlier, the namaz-e-janaaza (funeral prayer) was held at the Idara-e-Jaaferiya Funeral Parlour at Tooting, south London, where his body was kept to allow people to pay their last respects. About 50 people, including prominent public figures who had known Husain personally, were present.
The media was not allowed inside, to respect the family’s privacy. Television reporters waited outside to record the event.
Those who attended the funeral spoke of the “poignancy” of the occasion.
“You could see how united and close the family was. It was a very poignant and private moment,” said a close friend of the artist who flew in from Mumbai to attend the funeral.
The artist’s four sons, Shafad, Shamshad, Mustafa and Owais, led the burial later in the afternoon. His two daughters, Aqeela and Raisa, were also present.
The Indian government was represented by its High Commissioner in the U.K. Nalin Suri. Husain’s death was “an immense loss to millions of his admirers across India, the U.K. and the world,” the High Commission said in a statement.
“We mourn his passing away. In his death, the world of art has lost a person of prodigious talent who had opened up new horizons for other painters,” it added.
Husain lived in London and Dubai after he was forced to leave India in 2006 in the face of a vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation, including death threats, by right-wing Hindutva groups, who objected to his paintings of Hindu deities. A number of legal cases, based on the charge of hurting religious sentiments, were slapped on him. Last year, the State of Qatar gave him nationality, which he accepted though he insisted that India would always remain his “home” regardless of where he lived physically.
Attacking the climate of intolerance that forced India’s most famous artist to seek exile, a friend of Husain, said:
“I’m a devout Hindu but I didn’t see anything that was objectionable in Husain sahib’s paintings. There are right-wing elements in all religions who believe they are custodians of their religion,” he said. He also criticised the government for failing to protect Husain’s right to artistic freedom.