A group of Shiv Sena workers barged inside the Mumbai Press Club next to Azad Maidan and disrupted a press conference called to announce the Indo-Pak line-up of the Mekaal Hasan band. The announcement, which was scheduled at 3 pm, was cut short when 20 Sainiks entered the Press Club premises with party flags and placards, protesting the presence of Pakistani members of the band.
The police said 17 men and three women, some posing as journalists, came to the Press Club, just before the media briefing started. They were, however, prevented from creating a ruckus by cops who rushed there. “They only shouted slogans before we took them away. Some of men showed ID cards claiming to be journalists while others barged in,” said Ravindra Shisve, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone I. All 20 workers have been arrested and charged under sections 441 (criminal assembly) and 141 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC.
The band is a unique concept with a mix of Pakistani (Mekaal Hasan, Ahsan Papu) and Indian musicians (Gino Banks, Sheldon D’Silva and Sharmistha Chatterjee), to promote harmony between the two nations.
Jatin Desai, a senior journalist who helped organise the interaction with the media, condemned the incident. “The Shiv Sena has no authority to determine who can and cannot speak in this country. We are a democracy, where freedom of speech is meant for everyone. Stern action should be taken,” he said.
Desai said the band will tour India, Pakistan and other countries. Hasan confirmed that the band is not scheduled to play at any concert in the city as of now, and the press conference was held solely for the announcement of the line-up. “I am confident that our shared cultural heritage and music will lead us towards a peaceful future,” Hasan said.
Birla said her campaign this time is “very similar” to the last time.