After multiple shows being cancelled due to threats from hindutva groups, renowned Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali arrived in Varanasi on Monday for a six-day music festival at the famous Sankat Mochan temple.
Ali, who is scheduled to perform on the opening day of the festival, was invited by the head priest, Mahant Vishwambhar Nath Mishra to perform in Varanasi.
“We (artistes), through our music, give message of love and peace wherever we go. With a message of love and a few new ghazals, I am in Varanasi to spread fragrance of music, love and peace,” the ghazal maestro said. “Our voice reaches the places even where we don’t reach.”
Protests by the Hindu Yuva Vahini and Shiv Sena activists marred the latest invitation as well, however, Ali seems unfazed now.
Parrying questions on terror incidents in India and Pakistan affecting his performances, Ali said, “Hamare upar wale chand log nahi chahte ki hum saath saath baithe. (Some influential people don’t want dialogue and meetings between the two countries).”
As bilateral talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries take place today, the artiste said he hoped relationships under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would further improve. “I will pray for it to happen and hope this will happen for sure.”
The Shiv Sena had protested against Ali’s concert last October , leading to him cancelling his following concerts. Following the Pathankot terror attack in January, the Shiv Sena demanded that Ali’s concerts scheduled in Kerala that month be cancelled as well. Earlier this month too, a movie launch starring Ghulam Ali, slated to take place in the Capital, was cancelled following threats. The only exception was his performance in Kolkata early this year.
With the announcement of Ali’s performance in Varanasi, the Shiv Sena put up posters reading ‘Go back Ghulam Ali’ on social media. On Monday, Shiv Sainiks burnt an effigy of the singer in the city. When asked about the latest threats and protests, the maestro said, “May good sense prevail on them.”
Ali will be accompanying 19 Padma awardees at the music festival. They include Pt TN Sheshgopalan, Pt Niladri Kumar, Pt Jasraj, Pt Ullas Kashalkar, Soma Ghosh, Anup Jalota, Pt Ajay Pohankar, Pt Samaresh Chowdhury, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt Vishwajit Rai Chaudhary.
Odishi exponent Sonal Mansingh will also perform at the programme. The mega event will conclude with a performance by Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam and legendary singers of Kashi Pt Rajan and Sajan Mishra.