NEW DELHI: That the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Mumbai says it will give security to Pakistan’s singing star Ghulam Ali is nothing short of a positive change in the Modi administration’s approach towards the neighbour. That its troublesome ally and local rival, the Shiv Sena, got the ghazal programme to be cancelled after threats on Wednesday is indication of a domestic turf war.
There was another gesture on Wednesday, this time in New Delhi, that indicated things were on the mend. It was the galaxy of political bigwigs that showed up at the launching of former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book. They included former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former home minister L.K. Advani, former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, former cabinet minister Farooq Abdullah, former diplomat and peace activist Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee will set aside protocol to receive Kasuri on Thursday.
The atmosphere was electric. The debate was on. The arguments for dialogue (and against voiced by Sinha) were compelling. The applause was deafening, particularly so when Mr Kasuri forcefully argued for an early resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan.
But Kasuri gets warm reception in Delhi
Therefore, if ghazal legend Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai has been called off despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ assurance to provide full protection against threats from the Shiv Sena, it doesn’t suggest sabotage from New Delhi. It is more symptomatic of a battle between two local chieftains. When Fadnavis imposed a ban on meat during a Jain festival, the Shiv Sena sold chicken reportedly near Jain temples.
Press Trust of India reported that the event was cancelled after the organisers met the Sena chief, Uddhav Thackeray. The ghazal maestro was scheduled to perform on Friday at the Shanmukhananda Hall in the city.
Earlier in the day, members of the Sena’s film wing, the Chitrapat Sena, met officials at the venue and told them they would have to face the “anger of Shiv Sena and the patriotic people” if they went ahead with the event.
“We want to convey to you that if you invite Pakistan artist to the show you will have to face the Shiv Sena’s wrath... Which is why we ask you to prohibit the Pakistan artist from coming to the programme,” Chitrapat Sena said in a letter to the organisers.
The BJP which rules the state in alliance with the Shiv Sena distanced itself from the threat with Mr Fadnavis offering full protection to the event.
“What the Sena is doing with Ghulam Ali is absolutely wrong. People like him must be kept above and beyond borders,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in an unusual signal of peace.
The Sena said it was opposing the “terrorism spread by Islamabad” and that it was not against the singer.
“We are not opposing Ghulam Ali but opposing terrorism by Pakistan. Shiv Sena is against keeping any relations with Pakistan till the time they stop terrorism,” Sena leader Sanjay Raut said.
Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2015