Pakistani ghazal legend Ghulam Ali will be performing at Varanasi's Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple during the inaugural day of its annual music concert, next Tuesday.
According to reports, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan have also been invited.
The authorities have requested Bachchan to recite Hanuman Chalisa on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti.
The six-day long event starting on 26 April will also see many renowned classical singers and musicians including classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj, classical flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, classical dancer Sonal Mansingh, sarod player Aashish Khan, classical singers Rajan and Sajan Mishra, carnatic singer T N Seshagopalan, violinist L Subramaniam, playback singer Kavita Krishnamurthy, Santoor player Bhajan Sopori, bhajan singer Anup Jalota and classical musician Dr Yella Venkateswara Rao perform at the concert, which the temple organises every year.
Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, the temple’s mahant professor told The Indian Express, that he met Ghulam Ali at a programme in Delhi two days ago and he requested the Pakistani singer to perform at the temple’s annual concert this year, too.
“Today, I received a call from him confirming that he will perform on the first day of the event,” Indian Express quoted Mishra saying.
Suni Singh, Gorakhpur's State President for Hindu Yuva Vahini, has threatened to stage a protest against Ali's concert. He referred to the twin blasts in Varanasi in 2006, one of which took place in the Sankat Mochan temple, killing several people, to argue that Pakistani artists should not be invited to perform in India. According to him, since terrorists from Pakistan have allegedly attacked civilians in India, no Pakistani artist should be allowed to perform in India.
“Pakistan sends intruders and terrorists in our country," he told. "They kill innocent people. How could a Pakistani singer be invited to perform in our country?"
He also said his organisation would oppose the Pakistani High Commissioner's visit and that they will protest at the airport and cause disruptions during the concert as members of the audience at the temple.
Meanwhile Mishra said that the Pakistani singer has been invited for a cultural programme and therefore his visit should not be objected. On inviting Basit, he further said, “If he visits the temple and attends the event, it will send a good message among the masses.”
Several of Ali's concerts have been cancelled in the last few months following threats from the Shiv Sena. The party members have burned his effigies and protested in several cities where he was to perform.