South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Times of India on Dec. 02 ::

Popular Pakistani band Sachal Jazz Ensemble had to call off its performance at the NCPA on Monday evening at the last moment because the city police withheld seven Pakistan artists in the band permission to perform.

The Lahore-based band consists of three British citizens and seven Pakistanis. The last-minute cancellation left a 1,000 strong crowd that had gathered to hear the internationally renowned band deeply disappointed.

The band had tweeted on Sunday night that it was going to perform “jazz and ragas” at the NCPA. The performance was to begin at 7 pm; the show was cancelled at 7.40 pm after the permissions failed to come through.

Reportedly, the three UK citizens in the band were given approval by the police to perform in the city, but the permissions to the Pakistanis were held up. The organizers, who were trying the whole day to get the requisite permissions, seemed surprised by the last-minute denial. They refused to speak about the issue, only saying that they will send a formal email on Tuesday explaining the cancellation.

Sources in the police special branch said the department sat on the application from the band to perform in the city in the wake of the current India-Pakistan tensions. “There have been cases in the past where the situation has turned violent after approval was given to organise such concerts,” said the source.

The source said the police will take a call on the application sometime this week.

The band had earlier performed in Delhi and Pune without any trouble.

“This is shocking. Musicians are cultural ambassadors and messengers of peace. Ghulam Ali is loved in India just as Lata Mangeshkar is loved on Pakistan. We must give up a narrow, jingoistic attitude and give peace a chance, said Jatin Desai, general secretary of the India chapter of Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy.

Added filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, “The more things change, the more they remain the same. When our Prime Minister invited the prime minister of Pakistan to the swearing in ceremony, it made us believe that a new dawn was here. But if this news of the performance being disrupted is true then it proves that nothing has changed.

Rhys D’Souza, a saxophonist, said allowing the concert to go ahead would have actually helped strengthen Indo-Pak relations. “It’s a shame that music was involved. This wasn’t even anything to do with politics. The moment you know of it being cancelled, you got the air that it’s political.”

After the concert was called off , the organizers appealed to the crowd to disperse peacefully, which it did.

Andrew Ferrao, a keyboardist from Santa Cruz, asked, “Why should the music in this city be affected because of political reasons? If the band can perform in Delhi, why not in Mumbai? He said he was really looking forward to watch the band perform live, adding “If music can help build bridges, they should give them an opportunity.”

(With inputs form Mohammed Wajihuddin and S. Ahmed Ali)