The Chennai Police on Monday intervened and allegedly stopped a music band from performing a song featuring the word “Modi”, The News Minute reported. The Casteless Collective was performing at Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar as part of a cultural festival called the Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha.
Tenma, who heads the band, said the song is titled “Modi Mastan” and is about rituals in general and politics. A police officer on duty at the event took over the microphone after the band started performing the song and reportedly asked the event organisers to stop the performance. The band stopped midway after the organisers made the request even though an angry crowd jeered the police officer, The Hindu reported.
The event took place on the same day as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tamil Nadu, which had sparked a Twitter war. Ahead of Modi’s arrival, #GoBackModi trended on Twitter as social media users criticised him for not visiting the state after Cyclone Gaja and for not releasing the funds sought by the state.
The cultural festival on Sunday was organised by acclaimed singer TM Krishna, News18 reported. “The police officer asked us to stop the song as it had direct political references and hence, it cannot be sung,” Krishna said. “Criticism is being taken in a negative sense in our country. We should all have freedom of expression.”
Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, one of the organisers, said the audience was trying to understand what the song was about when the band was asked to stop. “It talked about the country being looted. We were very confused about which Modi was being talked about because there many – Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi,” he said. “But we respected the sentiment of the police and requested the musicians to stop.”
“The problem is with the situation that has been created in this country where even the mention of a name – a vitiation of the social environment – has come to be hugely problematic in a country which celebrates the right to free speech and tolerance,” added Jayaraman.
Sub-Inspector A Selvakumar justified the action. “This is a cultural programme, they [the organisers] asked permission [to perform] without any communal or caste-wise discrimination,” he said. “That’s the basis on which they took permission.”
Tenma said a lot of people had asked them to perform the particular song, adding that the band’s songs are generally educational in nature. “It is to make people understand about politics and the status quo. Our intention is not to instigate or make people fight,” he said. “The band was started to unify everyone. We didn’t hurt anyone.”
Tamil singer and dubbing artiste Chinmayi Sripaada also performed at the event. In the wake of the #MeToo movement last year, she had accused Tamil poet-lyricist Vairamuthu of having sexually harassed her. She had also backed others’ sexual harassment accusations against Vairamuthu.