Classical dancer Sonal Mansingh is one of the four people along with columnist Rakesh Sinha, sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra and farmer leader Ram Shakal who have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Mansingh, who has won several awards over her career spanning decades including Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award in 2003, however, has been over the years, snubbed by the so-called secular government of Congress.
Mansingh has also been called ‘Sanghi’ and ‘saffron’ for being a vocal opponent of Congress, especially the 1975 Emergency. Mansingh had refused to give dance performance during the Emergency, following which she was blacklisted, leading to no access to media, TV, radio and even government accommodation.
In an undated video clip where she is giving an interview, one can hear how the leftists and so-called liberals, including champion of freedom of artists’ expressions Shabana Azmi had hounded her and ‘questioned’ her for agreeing to perform at an event organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
She talks about how a handful of artists like herself and Kishore Kumar, who refused to perform during the Emergency, were blacklisted and were barred from getting any awards given by the government to civilians for contribution in art and culture.
She says this continued through Rajiv Gandhi’s regime as well. She said she had even asked for government accommodation to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but even then, nothing happened.
She speaks of 1993, in Swami Vivekananda’s 100th-anniversary celebration in Chicago Atal Bihari Vajpayee had approached her extending an invitation for performance along with other artists. She claims that stirred up the so-called liberals and she was ‘summoned’ and sent a threatening letter by members JNU, CPI, CPM, Sahmat, an NGO as well as actor Shabana Azmi, Swami Agnivesh, where ‘Artists against communalism’ for the said performance. Saying that she belongs to the family of freedom fighters, nobody could lecture her on her country or what she should do.
Agnivesh had questioned her whether she would have gone if Hitler invited her. Mansingh had replied yes because her art has that power, the power to change his mind. She said that as long as she is invited respectfully and does not have a brief on what and how to dance, she would go. After that incident, she was ‘branded’ saffron.
She then goes on to explain how after that incident, she was hounded and harassed by the ‘secular government’ by refusing visa to her team of musicians, on behest of Congress leader Arjun Singh, who was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh during the Bhopal gas tragedy and is believed to have given the final sanction to fly out Warren Anderson, Union Carbide chief who was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
She was made the chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi in December 2003 and in May 2004, when UPA 1 came to power, which she refers to as ‘the regime’ with 64 communist MPs. She says how Congress had to dance to the communists’ tune. CPM secretary-general Harkishan Singh Surjeet and other communist leaders wrote articles and opinion pieces and eventually hounded for years. She says how she was accused of favouritism by Modi and Advani when her 93-year-old mother, Poornima Pakvasa, Manipuri dancer and social worker for the upliftment of tribal girls in the Dangs, was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2004.
Calling the ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’ slogans raised in JNU in February 2016, ‘nonsense’ Mansingh said, that is ‘liberal, secular’ (according to Congress) she said she doesn’t want that nonsense.
But Mansingh is more than just her political inclinations. A graduate in German literature from Elphinstone College, Mumbai, Mansingh has also received ‘Praveen’ and ‘Kovid’ degrees in Sanskrit from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. She started learning Manipuri dance at the age of four and Bharatnatyam at age 7. She has also learnt Odissi in 1965, which was introduced to her by her father in law, Mayadhar Mansingh. In 1977 she founded Centre for Indian Classical Dances in New Delhi and was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1992 and Padma Vibhushan in 2003, making her second woman dancer in India to receive such an award after Balasaraswati, a celebrated Bharatnatyam dancer.