“We all enjoy Ghulam Ali songs. But we need some sensitivity towards soldiers. Ceasefire violations are happening every day. We cannot have fun here when our soldiers are suffering…Terrorism and culture cannot go hand in hand. We are not against his music or art. But can we cannot enjoy when our soldiers are suffering”, said Sena youth wing chief Aditya Thackeray who is also the son of Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray.
Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit expressed disappointment over the issue, calling it a setback for cultural ties.
“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 said in Delhi.
“It (cultural exchange) is one of the most important elements. It should be encouraged,” he added.
The ghazal maestro’s show was cancelled in Mumbai after Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt it. Ali was scheduled to perform on Friday, October 9.
Ghulam Ali too reacted after the show was cancelled.
“Atmosphere is not conducive for me to perform…Such controversies spoil people’s ‘sur’ (note). I am not angry, I am hurt. In love, such things don’t happen, “Ali said after the show was called off.
The concert was organised in the memory of Indian ghazal singer Jagjit Singh.
Ali called Indian ghazal singer late Jagjit Singh a “good brother”, in whose memory the concert was organised. He also said that he wanted Indo-Pak ties to improve and that he performs wherever his fans call him.
Veteran actress Shabana Azmi and music composers Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani have spoken out against the ban on the concert.
“Are we at war with Pakistan? Have we severed diplomatic relations? Have we closed down our Embassies? Then what justification is there to ban Ghulam Ali? Ghulam Ali was 2 perform in commemoration of Indias beloved Jagjit Singh in gesture of goodwill. Ok to talk tough with Pak Govt not its artists,” Azmi lashed out on Twitter.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the managers of the concert, Sena had said that the organisation would have to face the “anger of Shiv Sena and the patriotic people” if it invited any Pakistani artist.
The organisers announced their decision to cancel the show on Wednesday evening, after meeting Shiv Sena’s president Uddhav Thackeray at his residence.
“Ghulam Ali’s programme has been cancelled. Neither Ghulam Ali nor any Pakistani artiste will be performing at the October 9 event… Since the situation on the border is not conducive, it is not correct to call and promote any Pakistani singer ,” organiser Randhir Roy told reporters.
The decision was taken despite Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ assurance.
On Wednesday evening, Fadnavis told PTI that his government would give full protection to Ali.
Not just Maharashtra BJP, support also poured in from Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
“This is not justified. Ghulam Ali is a messenger of peace. Such messengers of peace should not face restrictions of boundaries,” Naqvi said.
“There has been no justice done to the victims of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai as yet. In such a scenario how can we let an artiste from the neighbouring country perform here? We will not hesitate to hold protests even though we are in the government. We will agitate in the Shiv Sena style if this programme is not cancelled,” Akshay Bardapurkar, the General Secretary of Sena’s cine wing “Chitrapat Sena” said.
Maharashtra Congress hit out at Shiv Sena, saying the party was indulging in petty politics because it had been marginalised in the coalition government with the BJP in the state.
“Sena’s word does not carry weightage (in government) and this is why they are resorting to such petty politics. The issues between India and Pakistan have to be resolved by the Centre….art, culture and sports should not be brought into this,” Congress leader Sachin Sawant alleged.
This is not the first time that the Sena has expressed its opposition to Pakistani artistes. In April, Pakistani singer Atif Aslam’s concert in Hadapsar in Pune was cancelled after a strong opposition from Shiv Sena.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government has jumped into the controversy and has invited Ghulam Ali to perform in the national capital.
“Sad that #GhulamAli is not being allowed in Mumbai, I invite him to come to Delhi and do the concert. Music has no boundaries. #BanTheBan,” tweeted Delhi’s Culture Minister Kapil Mishra.
(With inputs from PTI)