Indian artist says 'threatened' over Hindu god portraits

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An Indian artist said Tuesday that he had faced intimidation from hardline Hindu nationalists for depicting a popular god in unusual poses, including as an Oscar statuette.

I have been receiving phone calls which threaten me with dire consequences. They told me that they will chop off my fingers for indulging in such acts, Subodh Kerkar told AFP from his home in the resort state of Goa.

Kerkar has sketched the male elephant-headed god Ganesha in various guises for a new exhibition in the former Portuguese colony.

One shows the deity performing a traditional Maori dance, or haka. He is also depicted in a similar pose to French sculptor Auguste Rodin s work The Thinker, and walking naked carrying a garden rake.

Kerkar, 49, said the threats started when the hardline Sanatan Sanstha group told Hindus to call him and express their anguish at the images.

Two other groups then filed complaints with police, alleging that the art works hurt religious feelings. One, the Hindu Jangruti Samiti, called for demonstrations at the exhibition venue.

We intend to have peaceful protests, but we are not responsible for any law and order problem if it arises, HJS convener Jayesh Thali said.

The HJS previously protested against the renowned Indian painter M.F. Hussain because of his nude depictions of Hindu gods and goddesses.

The controversy in the mid-1990s led to court cases, attacks on Hussain s house and death threats.

Goa state police, which confirmed receiving two complaints, have told Kerkar to desist from any activity which will hurt religious feelings.

But the artist, who said he was a devotee of Ganesha, insisted that the paintings meant no offence.

They are an expression of my creativity, he said.

Followers of the one-tusked, four-armed god, the son of Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati, are gearing up for annual celebrations, which will see idols ritually immersed in water after a 10-day festival.

Ganesha is normally depicted sitting, with a broken tusk in one hand and holding a sweet delicacy in another. -AFP

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