Pak Artists Can't Dilute Fight Against Terror with Music, and Money Earned in India
Music unites hearts and souls. Only in India can music and musicians divide society longitudinally. The recent Shiv Sena-sponsored ban on the famous Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali from performing in Mumbai has brought onstage a direct confrontation between the ill-liberals and liberals on one side, and nationalists and ultranationalists on the other. Ironically, a Pakistani citizen like Ali has become the symbol of the fight for cultural freedom in India as if his own country is the paradise of pluralism and tolerance.
Some semantic saviours of secularism have tried to paint the musical prescription as a rift between Hindus and Muslims. It is appalling that the BJP government couldn’t convince its alliance partner to refrain from preventing a well-beloved singer from entertaining the Mumbai audience. The Shiv Sena, like the Muslim League or Owaisi’s obstreperous outfit, is entitled to sing its communally divisive tune. But none of them have the right to impose their choices—cultural or otherwise—on the entire state or country. The Shiv Sena has always been allergic to anyone from Pakistan, be it cricketers or artists, performing in Mumbai. This time it sang its revolting raga to the convenient composition of nationalist idealism. “Some people may have a problem with what we did, but we have no regrets. We have done our national duty. This is a tribute to all our martyrs who died at the hands of Pakistan’s cowardly hands. Raising war memorials is not enough, you need to give a stern reply and that is what we have done,” surmised an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna. Expectedly, others wearing jingoistic badges on their sleeves joined Sena’s offensive orchestra against Pakistan’s cultural invasion.
Popular Bollywood singer Abhijit Bhattacharya was the first to tweet in favour of the ban: “These shameless people have no self-respect, no work except terrorism. So-called Hindu political parties just shout 4 mileage bt never tk action agnst these Dengue Artists from terrorist country. These qawwals don’t come here on their merit but due to paki Dalals.” Predictably, he was savagely set upon by the secular cabal of Shabana Azmi, Mahesh Bhatt and Wendell Rodricks, who wear blinkers against Pakistan’s own attitude to their artistic colleagues across the border. Since it was a Hindutva political party that opposed Ali, leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal naturally played to their galleries and adopted the singer. They have invited him to perform in Kolkata and Delhi. Even committed Hindutva outfits disapproved the Shiv Sena attack and ban on Ali’s show. The RSS too expressed displeasure with Shiv Sena’s action. But all these conciliatory contortions couldn’t force Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis to call his ally’s bluff by ensuring that the concert went ahead as planned.
Ever since the change of government at the Centre in 2014, the actions and averments of fringe elements have dictated and defined the discourse on individual liberty. It can’t be denied that a few self-proclaimed torchbearers of Hindutva have been emboldened by the administration’s inaction towards their shoot-from-the-hip statements. On the other hand, the literati and chatterati class has been deliberately ignoring the assault on Indian culture, entertainment and minority citizens in Pakistan. Not one of those who are now in the forefront of defending Ali have taken up cudgels on behalf of Indian artistes and films prevented from playing in Pakistan. Their silence has provided a handle to individuals with extreme ideological leanings to convert every opportunity as a pledge to defend India’s pride. Those offended by Pakistan’s direct support to terror and Kashmiri separatists wonder why India should be a remunerative oasis for Pakistani singers, actors and other entertainers to hawk their talent. Come festival season, India is flooded with hordes of Pakistani showmen camping in various cities. They are invited by the rich and mighty to perform at private functions such as weddings. Revenue authorities’ estimate says Pakistani singers and artists take away over $77 lakh every year from India. A few years ago, noted Pakistani singer and B-Town balladeer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was detained at the IGI Airport in New Delhi after he and two of his troupe members were caught with $1.24 lakh in undeclared foreign currency.
None of these virtuosos who benefit commercially from the Indian market do ever speak against Pak-sponsored terror or plead in favour of liberal visas for Indian artists and journalists. But they host sumptuous parties for Indian socialites who visit Pakistan, who in turn take up their cause at home. Can a Lata Mangeshker, an Anupam Kher or even any of the Khans perform to packed audiences in Pakistan? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. Pakistan has banned for short and longer duration over a dozen Indian films during the past 10 years. Over half of these films like Ek Tha Tiger, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Chennai Express, Agent Vinod, The Dirty Picture and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had popular Indian Muslim celluloid icons like Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan , Saif Ali Khan, Imraan Hashmi and Farhan Akhtar. All of them have done India proud but Pakistan found their films a threat to its cultural identity. Saif Ali’s Phantom was banned by a Pak lower court after the terror outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa led by Hafiz Saeed filed a petition against its screening. Saeed is a prime suspect in 26/11 Mumbai attacks. None of the famous flag-bearers of freedom of expression in India and abroad have ever taken out candlelight marches or resorted to social media frenzy to condemn the macabre melody of the Pak establishment. Indians, however, have rarely rejected any effervescent entertainment from Pakistan. A large number of TV serials made in Pakistan draw huge TRPs in India and are regularly telecast in India.
Even after almost seven decades, Pakistani opinion-makers have not been able to change the anti-India mindset of their rulers. They have, however, been highly successful in creating a powerful, well-connected coalition of socially savvy illiberals who are united by qawwals and cuisine to fill their pockets in India. It is time they realised that India, under PM Modi, even though backed by some hot-headed supporters, will not allow music and entertainment by Ali and ilk to dilute and divert the fight against terror, and that too with money earned in India.
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