Shiv Sena stops Ghulam Ali concert

Published : Oct 14, 2015 12:30 IST

Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan.

Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan.

PREDICTABLE, paranoid and irrational were words that came to mind when the Shiv Sena forced the cancellation of Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali’s tour in Mumbai. Apart from underscoring the image of the Sena as a bully, the furore also reinforced the suspicion that all is not well in the saffron marriage between the Sena and its partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the ruling alliance in the State.

Randhir Ranjan Roy, business head of Panache Media, the organiser of the concert, said the show had been planned four months ago and advertising for it had started in September. Tickets had been sold out. It was then that the Sena’s film wing, the Chitrapat Shakha, sent a letter to the management of Shanmukhananda Hall, the venue of the concert, saying: “Through this letter, we want to convey to you that if you invite the Pakistan artiste to the show you will have to face the Shiv Sena’s wrath.... We ask you to prohibit the Pakistan artist from coming to the programme, or else you will have to face the anger of Shiv Sena and the patriotic people of the country.” With this bald threat in hand, the organiser decided that “the safety of the audience and of [Ghulam Ali] Khan saab were more important” and cancelled the show.

Roy met Uddhav Thackeray, who, he says, told him that the Sena did not oppose Ghulam Ali, but opposed the country he came from. The Sena’s explanation for its aggressive stance against Pakistani artistes is to say that it wants to have nothing to do with a country that violates the ceasefire along the Line of Control.

Though Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis issued a statement promising support for the show, he was unable to persuade his alliance partner to be reasonable. Ultimately, the BJP hid behind procedure with Minister of State for Home (Urban) Ranjit Patil saying the law will take its own course once the hall’s management lodged a complaint. This was unlikely to happen given the fact that Shanmukhananda Hall, located in Matunga, is aware of the Sena’s propensity for violence and disregard for legal procedure.

Paradoxically, Ghulam Ali’s music is one of peace and he was coming to sing as a tribute to the ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, who died four years ago. Interestingly, Panache Media, which has been handling Ghulam Ali’s shows in India for the past three years, said it had initially planned the concert to coincide with Jagjit Singh’s birth anniversary in 2014 but decided against it because of the heightened border tensions at the time.

The Shiv Sena has a history of using bullying tactics. Here are some of the instances when it targeted cultural and sports activities with Pakistan:

1991: Shiv sainiks threw tar on the cricket pitch at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, forcing Pakistan to call off its one-day tour. Similar fears forced the cancellation of tours in 1993 and 1994.

1999: In a copycat act, the Ferozeshah Kotla cricket ground in Delhi was vandalised so as to prevent the Pakistani team from playing, but the match went on as planned.

2006: After the Mumbai train blasts, the Sena threatened to disrupt the International Cricket Council’s Champions Trophy in Mohali and Jaipur saying the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had a hand in the blasts.

2010: The party turned its attention to the cultural scene, protesting against the inclusion of Pakistani artistes Veena Malik and the cross-dressing Begum Ali Saleem in the television show Big Boss. Both had to return to Pakistan.

2012: Asha Bhosle was told she should not share the stage with Pakistani artistes.

2014 and 2015: Three Pakistanis who were in the Professional Kabbadi League were not allowed to play in Maharashtra.

2014: Sainiks barged into a press conference of a Pakistani Sufi-rock band demanding that they go home.

2015: The singer Atif Aslam’s concert in Pune was cancelled because of Sena threats.

Interestingly, a day after the Sena threat, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi and the West Bengal government invited the maestro to perform in the national capital and Kolkata respectively.

Lyla Bavadam

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