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India: PIPFPD Statement condemns threats from right wing Shiv Sena leading to cancellation of performance by Pakistan singer Ghulam Ali

9 October 2015

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Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy

October 8, 2015

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) strongly condemns Shiv Sena for using the threat of violence which led to the cancellation of performance of Ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali. An internationally acclaimed Pakistani vocalist, he was to perform in Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall on Friday as a tribute to Jagjit Singh on his fourth death anniversary. We are extremely agitated and shocked that the Maharashtra government has failed to give confidence to the organizers to go ahead with the concert irrespective of Shiv Sena’s threats.

Music, sports and culture knows no boundaries. Millions of Indians are extremely fond of Ghulam Ali and his Ghazals. He is one of the most popular artists in India as in Pakistan. He rightly said," I only spread love through my music."

This is not the first time Shiv Sena has opposed artists from across the border from performing in Mumbai and Maharashtra. Last year, they had vandalised a programme which was organized to announce the first joint Indo-Pak band. Earlier in 1991 Shiv Sena activists had dug up Wankhede stadium’s cricket pitch in order to stop an India-Pakistan cricket match.

This threat and the failure of the government of Maharashtra to protect the organisers of Ghulam Ali’s performance, coming in the wake of the recent brutal killing in Bisara village near Delhi, of a Muslim citizen, Mohammad Akhlaq by a group of Hindu extremist on the mere suspicion that Akhlaq had consumed beef, and the failure of the central government to stop members of the ruling BJP party from making communally provocative statements is spreading fear among the members of religious minorities and secular minded people of the country. There is real fear that if these types of violence is allowed to continue, it will embolden the extremist elements, we will soon be in similar situation as our colleagues in Pakistan, where life is unsafe for the moderates and secular minded persons.

It is important that the Indian Government authorities realize that the people of both countries are being pushed to the wall because of their failure to take timely action against extremists. The attack on Ghulam Ali is an attack on freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and peoples’ right to assemble peacefully. It is also dictating what kind of music we may hear. It seems that people may be killed if they listen to any kind of music that is not approved by the Shiv Sena. It is also an attack on the cultural thread that runs through both the countries. Cancellation of such kind of programme also has international ramifications.

Maharashtra government needs to create an atmosphere through its actions where artists from different countries including Pakistan can perform without any fear. Spreading hatred in this manner is not what the people of the two countries want.

We demand that the Maharashtra government takes immediate action against the Shiv Sena who are spreading a culture that divides people.