Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai this week was called off on Wednesday following threats from the Shiv Sena, leaving the ghazal maestro “hurt but not angry”.
The decision was taken despite a snub to Sena by Maharashtra chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who said adequate protection would be provided to Ali and that the concert, organised in memory of late ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, would be held according to schedule.
Organisers of the event Panache Media announced the cancellation after a meeting with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray this evening at ‘Matoshree’, the Thackeray residence in suburban Bandra.
“Ghulam Ali’s programme has been cancelled. Neither Ghulam Ali nor any Pakistani artiste will be performing at the October 9 event,” organiser Randhir Roy told reporters.
“Uddhav saab said that even he is a huge fan of Ghulam Ali saab 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 added.
Reacting to the development, Ali said the concert was not cancelled from his end. “Atmosphere is not conducive for me to perform,” he said, adding, he wants Indo-Pak ties to improve.
He further said that whenever his fans call him with love, he goes and performs.”Such controversies spoil people’s ‘sur’(note). I am not angry, I am hurt. In love, such things don’t happen,” he said.
Describing Jagjit Singh as his “good brother”, Ali said wherever they met and performed, “we were one”. Ghulam Ali who is famous for ghazals like `Chupke Chupke Raat Din’ and `Awargi’ has a huge fan following in India.
Earlier in the day members of the Sena’s film wing, the Chitrapat Sena, met officials at the venue and told them they would have to face the “anger of Shiv Sena and the patriotic people” if they went ahead with the event.
“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 general secretary Akshay Bardapurkar said.
The BJP which rules the state 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.
The Sena justified its protest saying it was only opposing the “terrorism spread by Islamabad” and that it had nothing against the singer.
“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,” party leader Sanjay Raut said.
This is not the first time that the Sena is opposing Pakistani artistes. In April, noted singer Atif Aslam’s concert at Pune was cancelled following threats from the party. Earlier, in February, a press meet called by well-known Sufi band Mekaal Hasan was disrupted by Thackeray’s men. In 2010, Sena workers opposed the inclusion of Begum Nawazish and Veena Malik in the reality show Bigg Boss.
Pakistan expressed disappointment over the development with, with high commissioner Abdul Basit saying cultural exchanges are important elements of bilateral ties which his country “encourages”.
“We do encourage artistes to visit both sides and perform. As far as Pakistan is concerned, our policy is very constructive, very positive. When Indian artistes go to Pakistan, they do not come across such opposition,” Basit told reporters on the sidelines of an event.
The Indian chapter of the Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) too condemned the Sena’s stance. “Music and culture have no boundaries. The Sena needs to understand this. Citizens of Mumbai love ghazal maestro, Ghulam Ali,” said secretary Jatin Desai.