Don’t stop the music

Sharing culture humanises India and Pakistan — banning this pushes both from peace towards war.

Written by Salman Ahmad | Updated: October 19, 2016 12:07 am
indian films ban, piracy, pakistan india, india pakistan, india pakistan relation, indian films, pakistani actors ban, paksitani actors controversy, entertainment news, indian express, entertainment news, indian express, indian express news Despite the trauma of Partition, our history of conflict and the pain of the present moment, there still remains, miraculously, great love, friendship and deep spiritual harmony between Indians and Pakistanis.

All of a sudden, art and cultural cooperation look like becoming a casualty in the latest confrontation between India and Pakistan. We must not let that happen.

Let’s all hit the pause button on the news for a moment and remember what we have in common. Like our Indian counterparts, Pakistani music, poetry, television and literature have acted as a bridge between generations, cultures and nations — our nations. From Madam Noor Jehan to Abida Parveen, from Mehdi Hassan to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, from Nazia Hassan to Junoon and the present generation, artists have provided a mosaic of cultural spaces that reveal the true face, hopes and common humanity of South Asia.

But amid the ongoing tension, here’s what cross-border collaboration is up against: Pakistani artists working in India have been threatened with violence by hawkish organisations like MNS. Indian film icons Salman Khan and Om Puri have reportedly been labelled traitors for arguing to keep art and culture separate from politics. And on the Pakistani side of the border, in response to the outrage in India, the Pakistani motion picture association and PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) have threatened to stop screening Indian films and ban Indian artists from appearing in Pakistani films and TV commercials.

What the threat-makers forget is this — culture humanises what politics demonises. Banning artists, writers, actors and poets will give victory to the terrorists and extremists who don’t want people-to-people contact. They only want to create fear.

Just a few weeks ago, Om Puri was in Pakistan, promoting the Pakistani-produced film Actor In Law, which is doing record business in the country. Indian artists are embraced by Pakistanis —and it’s not just a one-way street. Indian music companies, film producers and event organisers invite Pakistani artists since it makes good business sense to do so.

I speak from personal experience. Junoon’s short music film Ghoom Tana features my Indian friends Shubha Mudgal, Naseeruddin Shah and Nandita Das. We shot this in Patiala, where my mother was born, and from where she subsequently fled during Partition. What’s more, Junoon was the first and only Pakistani rock band to perform in Srinagar, in May 2008. Performing at the edge of the Dal lake, for thousands of Kashmiri students and South Asian leaders, is one of the best memories of my life. It revealed the possibility of harmony in our subcontinent, too often rocked with violence and border tensions.

Despite the trauma of Partition, our history of conflict and the pain of the present moment, there still remains, miraculously, great love, friendship and a deep spiritual harmony between Indians and Pakistanis, elders to current generations. I know this from my own experience — so does Om Puri and every Indian and Pakistani who has a stake in a peaceful subcontinent. It’s this kind of collaboration we must protect, even as our governments drag their feet to find solutions to our most intractable conflicts.

Driving a wedge between Pakistan and India won’t just imperil artists’ collaboration. It also threatens to disrupt our common cause of improving public health. In July, as a physician, I attended an exercise in the Maldives for building a disease surveillance network in South Asia. It was attended by public health experts from seven South Asian countries. Indian and Pakistani public health experts alike are focused on mobilising a disease surveillance network. That would require better communication between the two countries — not cutting it off.

I’ve lectured and performed at Indian universities and the overwhelming message I heard from students is — more people-to-people contact, not less. In democratic nations, diverse views like these students’ are welcomed, not muzzled. There should be the same across both sides of the border — and more of it.

In the 21st century, we live in an interconnected world. Whether it’s appreciating music and film or fighting polio, the joys and sorrows of life are increasingly shared. After Partition, we have three armies, three cricket teams, two jingoistic medias and two nuclear-armed states. And it seems as if the only people who want to work together are business leaders, artists and doctors.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The circle of light can grow wider.

When Junoon played in Delhi in February at a UNESCO concert promoting peace and education, an Indian mother brought her teenaged daughter to the show. Her daughter was named “Sayonee” after our hit song, since the mother grew up on Junoon’s music. When I met them later, Sayonee told me she’s learning to play the guitar — and the solo song that inspired her name. That is the power of music across generations and barbed-wire borders. Let’s take a deep breath and remember that 60 per cent of well over a billion Indians and Pakistanis are teenagers like Sayonee.

What kind of future do we want to give them? War or peace? The choice is ours to make today.

 

The writer is founding member of Pakistani music group ‘Junoon’, professor of Sufi music at Queens College, New York, and a Polio Goodwill Ambassador.

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First Published on: October 19, 2016 12:06 am
  1. A
    Abhinav Gour
    Oct 21, 2016 at 4:48 pm
    War
    Reply
    1. P
      prakash gotimukul
      Oct 19, 2016 at 11:45 am
      Pak is same as ISIS. Everybody is on same page for destroying ISIS by force, by bombing etc. Preaching is good, why not apply to ISIS , syria etc. India tried to make peace, invited PM of Pak, Modi went to Pak, but these s dont deserve all this. First go n preach in Pak n disband the army which is the biggest terror group in Pak...............then we can talk abt relations.
      Reply
      1. S
        Sirius
        Oct 19, 2016 at 1:33 pm
        Kulbhushan Jadhav was kidnapped by ISI agents from Iranian side of border. If you are so confident about the case against him, please allow Indian consular access to Jadhav ..
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        1. A
          Ajitdada
          Oct 19, 2016 at 12:18 am
          The writer is in pre parion India and still have a hangover of Mugal era. Add to it Indian secularism and we start seeing everyone at the other side of border as our brothers....lt;br/gt;This is like a kissing poisonous snake or hyena or a wolf. The reality is those in stan are fed with hate material through Insutions and their peace doves come to India with the approvals of their ISI and Army. That is the reason stanis who visit India shy away from condemning terror, 26/11 because they know who do it and who die.
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          1. I
            IslamForFools
            Oct 19, 2016 at 3:31 am
            Allah is God of Isis and al Qaeda , tere Allah ki am ch0d deta hu. Bula tere Allah ko mere samne
            Reply
            1. I
              IslamForFools
              Oct 19, 2016 at 3:31 am
              Allah is fake god created by pedophile prophet mother to foool humans
              Reply
              1. I
                IslamForFools
                Oct 19, 2016 at 3:58 am
                Islam k me a ki ch000t
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                1. I
                  IslamForFools
                  Oct 19, 2016 at 3:28 am
                  Muslims in stan were Hindus before. What culture you talking about duplicate slam a ahmed
                  Reply
                  1. I
                    IslamForFools
                    Oct 19, 2016 at 3:24 am
                    Salman Ahmed tere Allah k mu me bullah , tere muhemed k am ki ch000t
                    Reply
                    1. I
                      IslamForFools
                      Oct 19, 2016 at 3:58 am
                      Salman Ahmed the on your face . stani culture is Hindu culture, they just think they are Arabs which they are not
                      Reply
                      1. I
                        IslamForFools
                        Oct 19, 2016 at 3:27 am
                        Salman Ahmed, tere Islam k ma ki ch000t mohemmed k me ki ch000t Allah k mu me bulla
                        Reply
                        1. I
                          IslamForFools
                          Oct 19, 2016 at 3:26 am
                          Tere ammi ne 100 Taliban se secs kiya hoga tab jake tu paida his writer
                          Reply
                          1. I
                            IslamForFools
                            Oct 19, 2016 at 3:43 am
                            Your fking Islam is problem nothing else salman Ahmed, leave your fking Islam , be Hindu again for peace . Salman ahead leave Islam for once and all , leav slavery of Arabs
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              Sivaramakrishnan
                              Oct 19, 2016 at 11:08 am
                              Hey come on!! What is show in movies is neither the culture of India or stan, movies are full of hype and most of the things shown in movies are obviously uncultured, unethical and immoral. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Bolloywood or Kollywood or whatever regional movies are there, none show anything that represent Indian culture. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;In every film, especially women are abused to the maximum to make money.
                              Reply
                              1. K
                                K
                                Oct 20, 2016 at 6:20 am
                                Give Independent to Sikhs as Independent country Punjab to Khalistan, and give independence to Indian Occupied Kashmir as an independent country or let be part of stan, then we can think of peace otherwise Endia would soon disintegrate with in days.
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                                1. K
                                  K
                                  Oct 20, 2016 at 6:36 am
                                  Soon RAW agent rat Kulbhusan Jadev would be dangled soon. we would cut of this rat head and would play with this pig head
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                                  1. R
                                    Radha
                                    Oct 19, 2016 at 3:11 am
                                    Sir, with all due respect cultural exchanges haven't stopped terrorism. We, indians do not have a problem with cross-country cultural exchanges but if comes at the cost of death of 100's of jawans at the border then perhaps a re-think of the strategy is required. Why don't people like you so-called liberal muslims ask you govt and army to stop funding and training militants? Why don't all of you together raise your voice and say enough is enough. If you can't nobody else will. Instead of writing patronising articles look into your country have a rethink of past strategies. Stop playing the victim card saying we are also facing terrorism. If you have a snake for a pet it will one day strike you. We are no fan of MNS, but this time they are right.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Sathya
                                      Oct 19, 2016 at 5:58 am
                                      This is biased article. Author is projecting as if ban on stani side is done in reaction to Indian action.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;He conveniently forgets about ban on Lata Mangeshkar and Dileep Kumar.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;stan is rabidly anti-India - it is pervading all strata and society and not as liberals try to project restrict to particular sectionlt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;We have 170 odd countries with which we can have cultural exchange - why this noise about particularly 1 country stan.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;These stani artistes have condemned Paris terrorist attack and other attacks on westernized world but are mum on terrorists attach in India. Since they condemned terrorist attach on countries which they are not related - what is preventing them from condemning attach on country they are staying and making money. If they condemns terrorist attacks in India most of opposition will go away. How many are Opposing Adnan Sani now?lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;On the same lines these so--called liberals should introspect why we continue to oppose artistes who have never said anything anti-India. Think of Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasreen. In fact these people have option to settle down in western countries with cushy perks but they prefer to stay or maintain touch with India. We should embrace them instead of opposing them.
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                                      1. V
                                        Vinny
                                        Oct 19, 2016 at 1:37 am
                                        Mr. Ahmad, may be you are right. But look at stanis they side Chinese more than any one else. For them terror gives more pleasure than good things from India. Why you are forgetting "Bleed India with thousand cut" from president of stan. Every terror evidence considered piece of paper, fabrications, lies etc. Why it is only Indians have keep tolerating terror year after year. lt;br/gt;Read any news papers today they all have 1 thing is common - Tons of advice to India then PM Modi. No one shreds a single tear to Indians and brutality of terror. For them it's a revenge of East stan. With help of Chinese now they think they will get away no not at all.lt;br/gt;It's up to stan to decide Peace or War.
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                                        1. K
                                          K SHESHU
                                          Oct 19, 2016 at 2:08 pm
                                          Music and art have no boundaries. They can travel anywhere without any restrictions. They are universal.
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                                          1. Y
                                            Yogesh
                                            Oct 19, 2016 at 6:49 am
                                            Humanises? vs daily killing of our soldiers - something very wrong with that
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