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?

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Tracing the formation of Al Qaeda and its path to 9/11

A new show looks at some of the crucial moments leading up to the attack.

“The end of the world war had bought America victory but not security” - this quote from Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, ‘The Looming Tower’, gives a sense of the growing threat to America from Al Qaeda and the series of events that led to 9/11. Based on extensive interviews, including with Bin Laden’s best friend in college and the former White House counterterrorism chief, ‘The Looming Tower’ provides an intimate perspective of the 9/11 attack.

Lawrence Wright chronicles the formative years of Al Qaeda, giving an insight in to Bin Laden’s war against America. The book covers in detail, the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden and his association with Ayman Al Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who preached that only violence could change history. In an interview with Amazon, Wright shared, “I talked to 600-something people, but many of those people I talked to again and again for a period of five years, some of them dozens of times.” Wright’s book was selected by TIME as one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books for its “thoroughly researched and incisively written” account of the road to 9/11 and is considered an essential read for understanding Islam’s war on the West as it developed in the Middle East.

‘The Looming Tower’ also dwells on the response of key US officials to the rising Al Qaeda threat, particularly exploring the turf wars between the FBI and the CIA. This has now been dramatized in a 10-part mini-series of the same name. Adapted by Dan Futterman (of Foxcatcher fame), the series mainly focuses on the hostilities between the FBI and the CIA. Some major characters are based on real people - such as John O’ Neill (FBI’s foul-mouthed counterterrorism chief played by Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (O’ Neill’s Arabic-speaking mentee who successfully interrogated captured Islamic terrorists after 9/11, played by Tahar Rahim). Some are composite characters, such as Martin Schmidt (O’Neill’s CIA counterpart, played by Peter Sarsgaard).

The series, most crucially, captures just how close US intelligence agencies had come to foiling Al Qaeda’s plans, just to come up short due to internal turf wars. It follows the FBI and the CIA as they independently follow intelligence leads in the crises leading up to 9/11 – the US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on US warship USS Cole in Yemen – but fail to update each other. The most glaring example is of how the CIA withheld critical information – Al Qaeda operatives being hunted by the FBI had entered the United States - under the misguided notion that the CIA was the only government agency authorised to deal with terrorism threats.

The depth of information in the book has translated into a realistic recreation of the pre-9/11 years on screen. The drama is even interspersed with actual footage from the 9/11 conspiracy, attack and the 2004 Commission Hearing, linking together the myriad developments leading up to 9/11 with chilling hindsight. Watch the trailer of this gripping show below.

Play

The Looming Tower is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, along with a host of Amazon originals and popular movies and TV shows. To enjoy unlimited ad free streaming anytime, anywhere, subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon Prime Video and not by the Scroll editorial team.