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Indian music wizard Mehta slams culture of hatred against Pakistan

Indian music wizard Mehta slams culture of hatred against Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Music unites Indians and Pakistanis more than most other offshoots of their similar cultures, and so it was in order that world famous conductor Zubin Mehta lent his voice on Sunday against allergens being spawned in India against its smaller neighbour.

The Mumbai-born composer told NDTV that incidents of ink attacks in his city on events involving visiting Pakistanis are “absolutely terrible” and “shameful”. In fact, he said: “Pakistani cricketers should be allowed to play in the IPL.” The music wizard revealed that except when India was playing, he always backed Pakistan against other countries like Australia or England.

Mr Mehta was speaking on a day when a number of leading public intellectuals, including historian Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib and writer Krishna Sobti, were addressing a worried meeting of writers and academics against a growing culture of de-intellectualising the Indian society. Mr Mehta offered his views on the issue.

If public intellectuals are ostracised or vilified from speaking their minds, India risks becoming a “cultural dictatorship”, Mr Mehta said, calling the ongoing protest by writers, filmmakers and scientists, whereby they have returned their awards, “brave”.

“Our writers, our filmmakers do have a chance to speak their minds. Otherwise we will become a dictatorship, a cultural dictatorship and that is inadmissible,” the 79-year-old India-born musician said.

A growing number of intellectuals have returned awards and resigned from positions in recent weeks, speaking out against the Modi government and protesting what they call “growing intolerance”.

“I respect them for this. I wish these brave people who are giving up their awards would sit down with the government and may be they would influence them too,” Mr Mehta said.

He said that artists “shouldn’t be ostracised by the government” for their opinion and that there should be “complete freedom of expression”.

The government has dismissed the protests by dozens of authors, scientists, filmmakers and historians with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley slamming those speaking out for a “manufactured paper rebellion”.

Mr Mehta also compared the cancellation of Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai earlier this month after threats by Shiv Sena to the protests by separatists in Jammu and Kashmir against his own concert in Srinagar in 2013.

Speaking about incidents that have strained communal ties across India, Mr Mehta said: “There are 150 million Muslims in India. Minorities must be made to feel a sense of security.”

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2015

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