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‘Hypocritical to act as a vicious political activist and claim the privilege of an artist’: Veteran artist Sonal Mansingh on TM Krishna

She says there is no moral superiority in being an artist or an activist, but it is wrong for an artist to behave like a vicious political activist while demanding the rights of an article. 

Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the cultural body, SPIC-MACAY had jointly organised ‘Dance and Music in the Park’ festival in which, controversial artist TM Krishna who has been called a bigot and a Hinduphone was to perform. Along with TM Krishna, several other artists including the veteran performer Sonal Mansingh was also to perform.

After news of TM Krishna performing at an AAI event, several protests erupted. AAI has specified that it had decided to call off the concert citing “exigencies of work”.

“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 from AAI to SPIC-MACAY said.

TM Krishna, a notable Carnatic music artist, has been in news for his contentious views on Carnatic music after he had announced that he would compose and sing Carnatic songs to gods of other religion. His statements to belittle age-old traditions of Carnatic artform had caused furore across the country.

Veteran artist Sonal Mansingh, who was also to be a part of the concert has today written an op-ed on Indian Express, not only slamming Krishna for making this cancellation a ‘freedom of expression’ cause, but also for his political activism.

Krishna had 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”, right after the event had got postponed.

Sonal Mansingh has written that all artists need to be prepared for their shows getting reschedule or cancelled and turning this into a freedom of speech issue is not acceptable. She said that artists are conscious keepers of society and hence, it is necessary that artists always speak facts.

She said that TM Krishna’s political views are well known and that has never prevented him from performing anywhere, and it is concerning that a narrative which doesn’t exist is being furthered.

She writes:

It is intriguing why this one cancellation of a programme has only become about Krishna and the purported hand of the Narendra Modi government as well as the prime minister personally! Disagreeing, and in Krishna’s case, severely disliking the prime minister, is fine, but what is not is to make this about an assault on freedom of expression, where there is none.

She also expressed concern over TM Krishna’s political activism. She said that disagreeing with authority is all well and good, but the personal tone is concerning. The vitriol against Prime Minister is his political activism, and it is fine for artists to be political activists, but they should explicitly say so. She also expressed concern over several people attaching everything to Prime Minister Modi and seeing his invisible hands no matter what happens.

After talking about the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, she writes:

Traces of the same also happened after 2004 when the likes of Anupam Kher, Raveena Tandon and myself were rather unceremoniously removed from our various positions. Our only crime — we were appointed by an earlier regime. Back in 2014, Krishna wrote, “Musicians, as citizens, have every right to have strong political positions and express them but how does one — can one — retain musical aesthetics while using music to advance one’s own socio-political positions?” Today, who is doing the same?

She says there is no moral superiority in being an artist or an activist, but it is wrong for an artist to behave like a vicious political activist while demanding the rights of an article.

Veteran artist Sonal Mansingh’s article can be read in full here.

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