October 12, 2015

India: End the Sena’s veto power ( Editorial in The Hindu, 12 October 2015)

The Hindu - October 12, 2015

Opinion » Editorial

End the Sena’s veto power

What the Shiv Sena could earlier do only with threats of violence, it can now do with a mere letter or an appeal. The organisers of concerts planned in Mumbai and Pune by Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali were quick to cancel the programmes after the Shiv Sena asked them not to host a singer belonging to a “country which is firing bullets at Indians”. A meeting with Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray must have convinced the organisers that the letter of request to cancel the show had the sanction of those at the very top of the Sena leadership, and that the “request” was no less than a threat in disguise. Now that it is in power, the Sena can effectively veto any cultural programme without even organising a public protest. The lesson that the organisers would have taken from the Sena’s missive is that no help would be forthcoming from officialdom in a State where a party that draws support from lumpen elements is in power. From digging up the cricket pitch and forming balidani jathas to stop matches between India and Pakistan, the Sena is known to oppose any kind of cultural or sporting interaction between India and Pakistan. Now that it is in power, the Sena seems intent on its agenda of imposing a boycott on all things Pakistani without resorting to open threats or violence.

The irrationality seems to have struck all but the most ardent of the Sena’s supporters. While Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal spoke to Ghulam Ali and persuaded him to agree to come to Delhi for a concert in December, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered to host him in Kolkata. But the issue is far more important than Ghulam Ali being able to perform in India. This is not on whether art, culture and sport can bring people together or worsen relations between nations. Whether they do one or the other depends on the peoples involved, and not on some intrinsic quality of these forms. The issue actually relates to the unbridled political power that the Sena wields in Maharashtra, a power that is not drawn from any electoral mandate, a power that is not accountable to any democratic institution. The Sena quite arrogantly assumes it can speak for all people when it asks for a show to be cancelled “considering the emotions of the citizens”. If the Sena was so offended by a Pakistani artiste performing in Maharashtra, it could have asked its supporters to stay away from it. The Sena’s senior ally in government, the BJP, and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, need to guard against a repeat of such incidents. What is at stake is not the right of a Pakistani artiste to perform in India, but the right of Indians to decide who they can listen to or watch in India.

source URL: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/end-the-shiv-senas-veto-power/article7750246.ece