No extremism in art

Adv. Masood Peshimam

Hotheads in Pakistan have never tolerated talent in music, acting, literature or any other creative endeavour. More so if it is close to liberal moorings.  The mighty hotheads in Pakistan have many a time roughed up artists of their own country and there is no end to turmoil which sometimes lead to assault.  The murder of the noted Pakistani qawwal was a case in point.  The reason of the murder was exasperation with the ideological deviation from the religious philosophy of the attackers though his father Gulam Farid Sabri, a legend in the art of qawwali for the number “Bhar do jholi meri ya Mohammad” had earned laurels captivating the hearts of people.  It’s a different matter if an actress like Veena Malik is in trouble for her skimpy outfit or display of her physical assets.

However, notwithstanding the sensitivities of radical elements in Pakistan, Pakistani artists have been in trouble in India for different reasons.  Here the Pakistani artists are targeted by right wing Hindus over the Uri incident in which 19 soldiers are martyred.  The Uri attack was reason enough for the right wing to fish in the troubled waters. Raj Thackrey-led MNS set the deadline of 48 hours for Mumbai-based Pakistani artists to leave the country.  The Shiv Sena and MNS routinely target the cultural figures from Pakistan.  The xenophobic sentiments are whipped up close on the heels of Mumbai municipal elections.  There is one upmanship born of political compulsions.

The formulation of hostile narrative against Pakistani artists is visible in their own country as well as in India which can be explained in one Urdu couplet,
“Waize tang nazar ne MUJHE kafir jana
Aur kafir ye Samajhta hai musalman hu main”

(The narrow minded sermoniser treated me as an infidel whereas the infidel thinks that I am a Muslim).

The situation has gone to such an extent that vigilants freely enter other’s kitchen to ascertain as to which meat the briyani is being made of. Now, do we need a Briyani Ministry at the state level and the Centre?

 The Pakistani artists are targeted as if they are involved in the Uri attack.  The artists focus on their performance and are nowhere involved in escalating conflict between India and Pakistan.  

Nationalism is not the monopoly of any group, political formation or religious segment. Muslims are very much rooted in national soil.  They are as Indian as their counterparts. A rally to pay tribute to the martyrs of Uri was organised in Kalyan by Parvez Ali Sayyed and Ms Alka Oulaskar.  People, irrespective of any consideration, have risen to show resentment and anguish over the terrorist strike in Uri.  

Interaction with Pak artists is quite an old affair as the migration of artists and literary figures took place in both the countries during of Partition.  Film personalities like Raj Kapoor, Raj Kumar, Dharmendra, Dev Anand, Balraj Sahani and lyricists like Gulzar, Naqsh Lailpuri and scores of others came from the areas now falling in Pakistan.  

Legendary ghazal singers like Mehndi Hasan and Gulam Ali had their roots in India.

Another noted person migrating from India was popular mimicry artist Moin Akhtar.  He went to Pakistan from Sewree, Mumbai.  

Saadat Hassan Manto migrated from India to Pakistan.

Ayesha Jalal wrote a biography of her uncle Manto.  Ayesha Jalal commented, “Toba Tek Singh was, is and will continue to remain one of the most revered short stories written by the celebrated Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto.  Remembered for the incomprehensible babble of the Sikh asylum inmate, Bishen Singh, who cursed both India and Pakistan in the same breath, the story questions the twisted dogmas of both nations even today.  Ironically, Manto shared a reciprocal turmoil with his protagonist. Both coped with an incurable void after being displaced from the nation they called home and both died searching for an identity on a bit of earth, which had no name”.

Art plays a larger role in cooling frayed tempers. It is not allowed to do so in Mumbai.