Dubai: The Yogi Adityanath led BJP government in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has been accused of terminating a dance performance midway because it was based on qawwali - a form of sufi Islamic devotional music typically performed at shrines.
Renowned danseuse and creator of sufi kathak Manjari Chaturvedi, told Gulf News she was performing at an event organised by the government’s cultural department at a five-star hotel on Thursday when the music abruptly stopped and an announcement was made for the next act.
“I was aghast. At first, I thought it was a technical glitch but when the next act was announced it was clear that this was not a glitch. The music had been stopped deliberately. When I enquired, an official told me pointblank ‘qawwali nahi chalegi yahan’ (qawwali cannot take place here),” Chaturvedi, said in a telephonic interview with Gulf News on Saturday.
The incident took place in state capital Lucknow, famous for its composite culture and home to some very old traditions in dance and Hindustani classical music.
In fact, Lucknow’s last king Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887) was not only a patron of music, dance, drama and poetry, but was himself a gifted composer and a proficient Kathak dancer.
Originally from Lucknow, Chaturvedi said she has never experienced anything remotely like this in her 25-year-old career. “I have performed in more than 35 countries. This is the first time when my performance was stopped. It was very humiliating. If they didn’t like my work then why did they invite me in the first place?” she asked.
Chaturvedi said her dance sequence on Radha-Krishna love went without a hitch at Hotel Renaissance as did her performance on the songs of yesteryear Indian singer Gauhar Jaan.
“My next performance for the evening was based on Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s soulful qawwali Aisa Banna Sanwarna Mubarak. I had barely started when the organisers pulled the plug on the show. I was told I can’t perform Qawwali,” she recalled.
“The guests attending the cultural programme included several visiting foreign dignitaries. I had prepared a script in English to talk about my show titled Range-Ishq (Colours of Ishq). But when I was stopped from performing, I calmly walked over to the stage, took the microphone and addressed the organisers in Hindi as I didn’t want to embarrass them in front of overseas guests.
“I said I believe in Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, (poetic Urdu phrase for a distinctive, syncretic Hindu-Muslim culture). My works revolve around pyar, mohabbat and ishq (love, eternal love and divine love) and will continue to do so. If you stop me from performing on one stage I will move to another one, I said and left.” she recalled.
Government denies allegation
A government spokesperson meanwhile said that Chaturvedi’s performance was cut short due to organisational compulsions and not due to any religious or linguistic bias.
”The act had trimmed because the programme was running late and had to be completed before the arrival of chief minister Yogi Adityanath. We wanted all performers to get space. But there was possibly some issue with communication between both parties” said the spokesperson.
Chaturvedi said she is overwhelmed to know that people stand by the arts. “Truly humbled with this support for the belief in the arts and culture and
empathy towards the one incident. I have already said what I had to say and there is nothing more that I can add to it,” she said in a statement to Gulf News.
“Let us continue to talk of love, ishq, mohabbat, harmony that I have strived and worked for through my performance art for 25 years. In gratitude for this love and support to know people do care about artists and their performances. I am renewed in my belief and respect for the land I belong to,” she added.