Midnight’s Children

Krishna’s aborted concert is no help to Modi or BJP

Carnatic vocalist Thodur Madabusi Krishna has been thrust into national consciousness because Airports Authority of India (AAI) has ducked its responsibility of hosting his music in the Capital. Look at it anyway, this shows the Modi government in poor light.

Krishna’s credentials in the music world are unquestioned. Also beyond a shadow of doubt is his spite against upper caste Hindus and the alternatives he looks for in Christianity and Islam. You could differ from him; but muzzling him is no alternative. If anything, it would only give him more traction and a gathering mass.

Salman Rushdie is a living proof that suppressing a voice only makes it more attractive. His “Midnight’s Children” might have been a tour de force but his global appeal lies because of the fatwa on him by the fundamentalist Islamic forces on his “Satanic Verses.” Most haven’t read him but everyone knows him. He kind of became a rallying force for free speech and freedom around the world.

The fundamentalist Islamic forces had laid down a line in the sand: you cross it at your own peril. No questioning of our religion, our tenets or holy book. They didn’t realize it showed Islam as regressive to the free world. That its’ reactionary forces were relying on “fear factor” more than a voice to reason.

Not that it didn’t work. Hardly anyone stood up for Rushdie. All the free world, top politicians, intellectuals, writers and thinkers were guarded in their support to Rushdie. Most admonished Rushdie that he should’ve been more sensitive to religious sentiments of millions. But the masses turned resentful to Islam and its’ hardline practitioners. It didn’t help Islam—only Rushdie and his bank balance. Possibly endowing him with an enduring fame.

More recently, journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered allegedly by the Saudi Arabia government in its consulate in Turkey. If the idea was to silence a dissenting voice, the matter has backfired spectacularly for Saudi government. The world has risen as one, making Saudis change their stances on a daily basis and coming out the worst for it. For one Khashoggi dead, there are a thousand Khashoggis rising in its wake.

History has shown that governments have always feared a powerful liberal voice at crossroads with them. That’s why you have the adage: “Pen is mightier than the sword.” It usually pits them in conflict. It’s also true that authority is the only loser in this war.

Few have any doubts that Krishna was shut out because of his ideology. Few also doubt that trolls went for him. There is also little escaping that AAI developed cold feet. The government may or may not have had any role to play in this both tactical and ethical disaster. But the conclusion was inescapable: a government institution has backtracked and its bosses can’t escape the inference.

Renowned classical dancer Sonal Mansingh, who was due to perform in the concert, hasn’t helped the matter. She has written an edit piece in Indian Express today, suggesting the political agenda which masks Krishna’s music. She has recalled Krishna’s deplorable attacks on Narendra Modi in the past. That Krishna himself is on record of being not in favour of mixing music with politics. She has termed Krishna immoral and hypocritical for acting “as a vicious political activist and claiming the privileges of an artist.”

All this might be true but it still doesn’t address the central question in everyone’s mind. It’s fodder to critics of Modi and BJP and it embarrasses millions who term them progressive. All it has done is to make Krishna more attractive and a potential tool in the hands of liberal mafia. A self-goal if ever there was one.