A day after Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai was called off following threats from the Shiv Sena, the Delhi government on Thursday invited the acclaimed Pakistani singer to perform in the national capital.
The organisers of the event announced the cancellation after meeting Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray late on Wednesday.
The decision was made despite a snub to the Shiv Sena by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had promised to provide protection to Ali so that the concert on October 9, organised in memory of late ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, could be held.
Reacting to the development, the Delhi government invited the 75-year-old singer to perform in the national capital.
“We can have the concert in Delhi, I am sure it will be well received,” Delhi tourism minister Kapil Mishra said. “Music and art have no boundary, I feel that the freedom of people is being restricted a lot.”
The Pakistani ghazal maestro expressed sadness at the cancellation of his concert, saying he was especially disappointed as it was a tribute to Jagjit Singh, who was like a brother to him.
“I’m not angry, but I’m a bit hurt and sad. But there are can be sad moments in love as well. I don’t know why such situations and conflicts arise. We have performed in Mumbai on several occasions before and people have always showered their love on us,” Ali said.
“The programme was important for me as it marked Jagjit’s death anniversary. And that’s why I got tense and thought that the move was wrong…Jagjit was like a brother to me and whenever I met him we looked like one, not from India or Pakistan.”
Ali said borders between countries cannot restrict music from streaming into the hearts of people. He also said he wants to spread love with his songs and his admiration for India remains undiminished.
“I would like to tell Indians to remain in ‘sur’, love each other and keep listening to us – be it live or recorded,” he said.
Watch | Pak singer Ghulam Ali reacts to Mumbai concert cancellation
The Pakistan government too regretted the opposition by the Shiv Sena to Ali’s concert, saying Indian artists do not face such opposition when they visit Pakistan.
“Our position is very clear. We do encourage people-to-people contacts, we encourage our artists to visit both sides, visit each other and perform. Our policy is very constructive, very positive. Indian artists, when they go to Pakistan, they do not face such opposition,” Pakistani envoy Abdul Basit said.
Randhir Roy, a representative of the organisers, said the Shiv Sena believed the concert should not go ahead because of the tense relations with Pakistan.
“Uddhav saab said even he is a huge fan of Ghulam Ali sab and if the concert had taken place, he would have attended it too. But unfortunately the conditions at the border right now forced them to oppose the concert,” Roy said.
Ali, who is famous for ghazals such as “Chupke Chupke Raat Din” and “Awargi”, has a huge fan following in India.
The Shiv Sena has often opposed public events featuring Pakistani actors and musicians. It has also opposed cricket matches between India and Pakistan in the past.
In April, Pakistani singer Atif Aslam’s concert in Pune was cancelled after threats from the party. In February, a news conference by well-known Sufi band Mekaal Hasan was disrupted by Sena members. In 2010, Sena workers opposed the inclusion of Begum Nawazish and Veena Malik in the reality show Bigg Boss.
The Chitrapat Sena, the film wing of the Shiv Sena, said authorities would have to face the “anger of Shiv Sena and patriotic people” if Ali’s concert went ahead.
“How can we allow Pakistani artists to perform here when our soldiers are being killed by them? We are not interested in cultural ties with such enemies,” Chitrapat Sena leader Akshay Bardapurkar said.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said: “We are not opposing Ghulam Ali but opposing terrorism by Pakistan. Shiv Sena is against keeping any relations with Pakistan till the time they stop terrorism.”
The BJP, which rules Maharashtra in alliance with the Shiv Sena, distanced itself from the threat. “What the Sena is doing with Ghulam Ali is absolutely wrong. People like him must be kept above and beyond borders,” Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.