Krishna will sing

AAI’s capitulation raises worrying questions about why his concert was cancelled

T.M. Krishna, a leading Carnatic vocalist, has previously commanded a full lawn in Delhi’s chilly season tradition of classical music and dance performances in Nehru Park. His scheduled participation in a Spic Macay programme this weekend was always going to be a big draw. But in a move that should shock anybody concerned about the threats to free expression, the programme was abruptly cancelled, after its sponsor, the Airports Authority of India, suddenly bailed out. The public sector enterprise constituted by an Act of Parliament may have been the target of a sustained attack by trolls, angry with Mr. Krishna for being an outspoken critic of the Narendra Modi government. But rather than capitulate, it should have had the courage — and summoned up the necessary official support and protective cover — to ensure that the show was conducted. The AAI has said it has called off the show because of “some urgent engagements”, an explanation that has found few takers. For one, there was no attempt to clarify what these pressing engagements were. And for another, if the AAI had merely postponed the show as it suggested, why couldn’t it have declared when the deferred programme would be held? The weak and incomplete explanation seemed to confirm that the AAI had surrendered to social media threats.


As a musician, Krishna has attempted to break barriers of orthodoxy, caste and class. For instance, the Magsaysay awardee came out strongly in favour of some Carnatic musicians who were targeted on social media for singing Christian compositions, declaring he would do the same and not give in to critics’ diktats. He has also contested the structural rigidities of the Carnatic music world and attempted to take this art out of the hallowed halls and to more inclusive platforms. In his public talks and writing, he has drawn attention to the dangers posed by fundamentalism. The Delhi government has done well to step in and organise a concert of his at another venue on Saturday. In doing so, it has called out the AAI’s capitulation to bigotry and called the bluff of those who threatened the show. At the same time, the staggering silence of those higher up — namely, those in political power at the Centre who exercise informal control over public sector enterprises — lends credence to speculation that the AAI may not have acted on its own. But even if it had, that such threats could result in the cancellation of a concert speaks poorly of the capacity of the Indian state to stand up in the face of intolerance and intimidation. The decision to hold Krishna’s concert is not only about a musical performance but an assertion of the democratic ethos.


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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 8:49:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/krishna-will-sing/article25521130.ece

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