The Shiv Sena Wednesday forced the cancellation of a concert by Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali, who was scheduled to perform at Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall Friday as a tribute to Jagjit Singh on his fourth death anniversary.

This prompted Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to intervene and call Sena’s actions “unfortunate”.

“My government is willing to give full protection to Ali’s concert in Mumbai. The show must go on. It is unfortunate to drag a world-class, renowned ghazal singer into Indo-Pakistan politics… Pakistan artists are always welcome. Our singers and actors also go to Pakistan and perform. We should respect each other’s culture and talent. Why bring politics into culture?” Fadnavis said.

The Congress and the NCP also slammed the Sena

I’m not angry but very hurt. I have always got love in India,” Ali told NDTV. The last time Ali was in India was almost six months ago to pay tribute to Indian shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan in Varanasi. “It always surprises me, the amount of love people have for me and my music. Nobody cares about politics and our tumultuous history when music makes an appearance,” he had told The Indian Express at the time.

On Wednesday, the Sena’s film industry arm, the Chitrapat Sena, submitted a letter to administrators of Shanmukhananda Hall, asking them to cancel the function. “Your soldiers and civilians are being killed on the border. We will not allow Pakistanis to come and perform on our soil,” Chitrapat Sena Akshay Badrapurkar, who led a delegation to the hall, said. They threatened to launch a “Sena-style” protest if their demand was not met.

Aadesh Bandekar, a TV artiste and a close associate of Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, said that even though the party respects the talent of those from across the border, it “will not allow citizens of Pakistan to work here and make money”.

Randhir Ranjan Roy, business head and founder of Mumbai-based Panache Media, which has organized three Ghulam Ali concerts in India in the past, took the decision to cancel the concert after meeting Thackeray Wednesday. “Thackeray ji said he loves Ghulam Ali ghazals, too, but one has to understand that he is a Pakistani artiste and border tensions need to be taken seriously. I agree with him at an individual level, too. By having a show like this, it feels like we are just pampering Pakistan. Four Indian Armymen were killed recently. It isn’t fair to have a Pakistani artiste’s concert at this point,” said Roy.

The hall’s manager Leo Francis, too, said, “We have told the organisers the programme stands cancelled.” Those who bought the tickets would be given a refund.

PTI adds: Reacting to the development, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said, “We 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.”

Courtesy The Indian Express