A campaign by right-wing trolls has allegedly forced the organisers to call off a concert by T M Krishna in the national capital, scheduled to be held this Saturday. An unfazed Krishna, however, said: “Give me a stage anywhere in Delhi on November 17, I will come and sing. We just can’t let ourselves be cowed down by this kind of threats.”
Krishna’s concert was to be part of a two-day “Dance and Music in the Park” festival at Nehru Park, Chanakyapuri, organised jointly by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the cultural body, SPIC-MACAY. On November 5, AAI announced the concert on its Twitter handle and, over the following week, shared details about the performers.
On November 10, it tweeted about Krishna’s proposed performance. Advertisements also appeared in some newspapers in the city. However, late Tuesday night, AAI informed SPIC-MACAY over email that the concert was called off. “Because of some exigencies of work, we are not in a position to go ahead with the dance & music concert jointly organised with SPIC MACAY on 17th and 18th November, 2018 at Nehru Park, New Delhi. Hence, we request you to kindly postpone to a new date and inform all concerned. The new date will be discussed with SPIC-MACAY soon,” the email said.
AAI Chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra denied that the concert was postponed because of the criticism the government body received for inviting Krishna. “We have some issues. Some exigency has come up and we are not free that day. Whatever note we have given in the media, that is all, there is nothing more I want to say on this,” Mohapatra told The Indian Express.
Krishna had re-tweeted AAI’s invitation on Monday, which activated trolls who targeted the government body for sponsoring the concert. The tweets accused AAI of using public funds to sponsor Krishna, and said he sings about “Jesus and Allah”, is “anti-India”, and is a “converted bigot” and an “Urban Naxal” among other things.
The trolls asked if the bureaucrats knew who they were supporting and tagged senior functionaries in the government, including Minister of Railways, Coal and Corporate Affairs Piyush Goel and Minister of Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu. Krishna mentioned that SPIC-MACAY informed him on Tuesday that AAI had promised the cultural organisation that it would ignore the tweets and hold the concert with additional security. However, the situation changed by Wednesday evening, and AAI clarified that the concert had been postponed and the new dates would be announced shortly. Besides Krishna, dancers Sonal Mansingh and Priyadarsini Govind, and sitarist Shahid Parvez Khan were to perform at the weekend event.
Opinion | If Krishna can’t sing
Krishna’s views on constitutional values like secularism and caste prejudice in music have made him a target of Hindutva supporters. In August, a Maryland temple had cancelled his concert, allegedly after Hindutva activists accused him of singing Christian hymns. This is the only previous occasion when people opposed to his political views managed to deny him a stage. However, a group of music lovers in Georgetown University in Washington organised his concert the same day (September 9) in the campus.
In January this year, a Hindu right-wing group had threatened to disrupt his concert in Tirupur, the textile town in western Tamil Nadu, but it was held under enhanced security. His attempts to increase the Carnatic music concert repertoire by including hymns in praise of Christ and Allah and poems by writers including Perumal Murugan have been attacked by Hindu right-wing activists.
Krishna, 42, is considered one of the finest among the current crop of Carnatic musicians. A Magsaysay award winner, he is also the author of A Southern Music: The Karnatik Story.