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Pakistani singer Ali cancels India concerts following Hindu nationalist protest

A local Hindu nationalist party has objected to a Pakistani concert and forced organizers to cancel his Mumbai and Pune performances. Singer is invited to return for a December tour elsewhere in the country instead.

Famed ghazal singer Ghulam Ali was forced to cancel his India tour Friday following threats that local Hindu activists would disrupt his performances.

"The atmosphere is not conducive for me to perform.... I am not angry, I am hurt," Ali told reporters Thursday.

Shiv Sena, a hardline Hindu nationalist party that is part of the regional ruling coalition, had said it would be inappropriate to enjoy an entertainer from Pakistan while the two countries remain belligerents.

With a history of Shiv Sena support of violently disrupting events it does not approve of, organizers hastily canceled the concerts and the singer left the country. But Shiv Sena itself has come under fire from fellow Hindu nationalists and other parties for bringing down the tour.

"I am also a fan of Ghulam Ali. I listen to music daily," said Nitin Gadkari, a cabinet minister in the national government from the Hindu nationalist BJP. "This [opposition to Pakistan] should not be dragged to the level of artist. Opposition of Pakistan is right but not of Ghulam Ali."

Meanwhile, the state government in Delhi has extended an invitation for the 74-year-old singer to perform in India's capital later this year.

"Ghulam Ali Sahib, we are very big fan of yours. It was good talking to you now. Thanks for agreeing to do a program in Delhi," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.

The Pakistani singer told the Press Trust of India that despite having to cancel two performances, he looked forward to returning to India in December.

"Yes I have accepted the invitation and most probably I will be coming in December. I have always said that I will go wherever people invite me with love. I have been coming to India for the past 40 years. So, yes I am happy," Ali told PTI before leaving India.

Earlier this week both the state governments of West Bengal and Delhi had offered to host Ali's concert, saying music and culture have "no boundaries," after two events were canceled in the face of threats by the Shiv Sena.

The Mumbai concert was canceled despite assurances by the state's top officials that the singer was welcome and the state government would give him "full protection."

Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said he regretted the cancellations.

"Our position is very clear, we encourage people-to-people contacts, we encourage our artists to visit both sides and perform," Basit said.

Much of the regional tension stems from long-running territorial disputes. India and Pakistan have recently accused each other of unprovoked firing along the frontier in Kashmir, killing troops and civilians on both sides.

jar/msh (AP, PTI)

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