Musician Zubin Mehta, who is in the national capital for a concert, has spoken out against the attacks on writers and artists who have returned government awards to protest against growing intolerance in the country.
He also criticised attacks such as the one by the Shiv Sena on former BJP leader Sudeendra Kulkarni for organising the release of a book by former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri and the snapping of sports ties with Pakistan.
“Artists’ opinions must be welcomed instead of being excluded. There should be complete freedom of expression in India,” Mehta told NDTV.
Mehta said he “roots for Pakistan when they play against anyone except India” in cricket matches. “I don’t understand why Pakistani cricketers can’t play in IPL. Ink attacks and keeping Pakistan cricketers out is shameful,” he said.
Earlier, the Mumbai-born music maestro suggested that artists, writers, filmmakers and other intellectuals protesting against the government should engage in a “dialogue” with it. “Intellectuals are going ahead and giving back awards whether they are writers or filmmakers. They must feel very strongly and I respect them for what they are doing. On the other hand, I read what the government ministers are saying. I think both parties should meet together and talk about their grievances,” he said.
More than 40 writers have returned government awards and a group of authors staged a silent march with black gags and armbands to protest against the Sahitya Akademi’s reluctance to strongly condemn the killing of writers and rationalists like MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar. The Akademi later condemned the killing in a resolution passed during an emergency meet.
Twelve filmmakers, including Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan, have returned their national awards to protest the “growing intolerance in the country” and to express solidarity with FTII students opposed to the chairman chosen by the government.
A total of 53 historians, including leading names like Romila Thapar , Irfan Habib and KN Pannikar, have expressed serious concerns over recent developments in a joint statement. “Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter-arguments but with bullets,” the statement said referring to the lynching of a man in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he ate beef and the ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni in Mumbai.
Scientists, including Padma Bhushan recipients Ashoke Sen, PM Bhargava and P Balram, have announced their decision to return their awards. The move came after two sets of scientists petitioned the President to initiate “suitable actions”.