South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The cancellation of Pakistani music legend Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai by the right-wing extremist Shiv Sena group has marred the secular image of India. An artist does not belong to any caste or creed and holds a universal appeal, thereby providing no justification for the kind of act that was witnessed in Mumbai. Does secularism not instill in India, the largest democracy in the world, the lesson of treating all people, whatever their faith, as equals? Artists reflect the world around us. They build improbable bridges. They help bring nations close to one another.

The Indian government would do well not to give in to such hooliganism as there are no justifications for such hateful acts. The goal should be to encourage artists to actively participate in cultural dialogue through their medium of expression; in Ghulam Ali’s case it is music. The Indian government should strive to spread the artist’s message of love, peace and harmonious coexistence to facilitate stronger cultural bilateral ties.

The principle of non-discrimination is one of the most important human rights. Nearly all international treaties on human rights include special provisions on non-discrimination and add different grounds on which discrimination may not be made on the basis of race, colour, religion, national or social origin, and the like. Here in Pakistan we should be careful not to engage in similar acts when Indian artists visit the country, as there should be no reciprocity of such acts, only strong condemnation. Despite Indian claims of upholding secular values, the events in Mumbai indicate a narrow approach towards and discrimination against artists, who are cultural ambassadors.

Salma Tahir

Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2015.