Short Take

Should Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali bear the burden of Kasab's act of terror?

India's rising tide of intolerance has descended into goondaism of the worst kind

The Shiv Sena is back in the news. I guess it's been a while since they made it to the front pages. They've gone back to the politics that gave them their oxygen all those years ago: intimidating the state into submission by targeting a familiar enemy. They have ensured that a concert by Ghulam Ali concert scheduled for Friday has been banned in Mumbai because their leader Udhav Thackeray vetoed it. This despite the fact that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had reportedly promised full protection to the Pakistani singer. Are we to then understand that the chief minister and the state machinery are subordinate to Thackeray's diktats?

We are told that Ghulam Ali is not welcome in Mumbai because its citizens have not forgiven Pakistan for its role in 26/11. So Ghulam Ali is welcome to sing in Delhi, he sings in even the prime minister's constituency in Varanasi, but he can't sing in Mumbai because of the collective outrage over the terror attack and Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism. Are we to believe that only Mumbaikars feel strongly enough to stop a singer from performing while the rest of the country embraces him?

And what of those who want to hear him sing, who may not subscribe to the view of the alleged majority, who may genuinely believe that music cuts across boundaries? Do they not have a voice or is the Shiv Sena now that the sole spokesperson for the city of Mumbai? You could argue that it has always been like this: after all, didn't the Sena once dig up a cricket pitch ahead of an India-Pakistan series? And didn't the Congress government at the time timidly acquiesce to this act of thuggish behaviour?

The silent majority

When it did so in 1991, the cricket-crazy fans of Mumbai stayed silent. As many of us do today, even as a legendary singer is denied the right to play his music. Is Ghulam Ali to bear the guilt of what Ajmal Kasab did, and is that the only way the so-called collective conscience of a nation seeking vengeance will be satiated? Since we can't strike at a Lashkar camp in Muridke, so much easier to stop a music concert. It's easy to be brave sitting in a shakha in Mumbai rather than being a soldier along the LoC: the ISI won't stop sponsoring terror because the Sena stopped a music concert.

The fact is that this rising intolerance has now descended into goondaism of the worst kind. One day, it leads to a man being lynched to death in Dadri, the next day a concert being cancelled in Mumbai: the mindset of using muscle power to impose a religious agenda under the guise of spurious nationalism is much the same. And we stay quiet because we are too scared to speak. Or we have too much to lose by challenging the ruling class. I hate silence and I love my music: so I shall listen to a Ghulam Ali song on my IPod before I sleep tonight. Surely the Shiv Sena won't come into my bedroom. Or will they?

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