Lucknow Shias up in arms, force ticketed show on Moharrum to be cancelled

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Organizers of a ticketed show “Songs of Karbala” ran into trouble when irate Shias lodged a complaint with the district administration and forced cancellation of the event.

Exclusive By Dr. Shirin Abbas: Lucknow, Sept 13: There’s a limit to Art for Art’s Sake, especially when you are playing around with religious sentiments in a country where emotions around the same run raw and deep.

Moharrum mourners were in for a rude shock this week when flyers promoting Askari Naqvi’s latest event, “Songs of Karbala” appeared on their timelines announcing a ticketed show to be held at an elite venue in the city on Sept. 15th, the 5th of Moharrum.

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A lady Azadar who came across the same initially spread the message about the function expressing her disgust with people stooping so low as to term the sad dirges of Moharrum, Soz, Nohas and Marsias as “Songs” and invite people to attend the ticketed event. News of the event spread soon across the old city with people expressing outrage at the temerity of the organizers. The anger grew even more as the artiste Naqvi is a Shia himself. It was unthinkable for most that someone from the Shia community would indulge in such an act and showcase these sacred recitals as a show of entertainment for the general public and actually ticket the show like a Play or a Concert.

Several invitees tagged for the event began to react negatively to the invitation and asked for their names to be deleted from the invitation list. Several eminent community members approached Askari Naqvi to cancel the show and apologize to the community, but to no avail.  Naqvi stood his ground saying he was trying to promote an art form and “bring the story of Imam Husain before the general public” Most of his community members tried to reason that it would be better the event be organized post the 10th of Moharrum at a non-ticketed, non-commercial venue in the spirit of the way Sozkhwani is meant to be performed. But the suggestion was brushed aside by Naqvi, rather rudely, as some who spoke to him revealed.

Naqvi was contacted several times by senior members of the Shia community, including some of his relatives, who tried to reason out with him to cancel the show or at least postpone it until after the 10thof Moharrum and make it open to all rather than a ticketed “performance”

However, Naqvi refused to relent, of the firm view that he was “Propagating an art form and taking the saga of Imam Husain to the general public.” As he refused to budge from his stance, tempers soared within the community. Naqvi’s phone number was leaked on social media and went viral. Very soon he was besieged with threatening and abusive calls from angry Azadars who threatened him with dire consequences if he did not drop the event altogether.

Acting on a complaint regarding the event received from Shia cleric Dr. Kalbe Jawwad, the administration swung into action and rounded up the organizer of the event, Prashant Sinha who was detained for over four hours in Gomtinagar police station and questioned. It was then found that no permission had been taken nor any information given regarding the same to the administration. “We are surprised that they decided to go ahead with organizing the event without even taking permission or giving information regarding the same. The district administration is on its toes during Moharrum because everyone is careful to pre-empt any untoward incident and disperse any possible tension. Had the organizers gone ahead with the event, there would have been a law and order situation on hand because tensions were running high in the old city. Shias had stressed they would perforce stop the vent from taking place if no action was taken. In this regard we are thankful for the information received from Maulana Kalbe Jawwad which helped us disperse a major situation from taking place,” revealed a senior police officer with the Gomtinagar police station.

The role of BJP State Youth Wing Minority Media Spokesperson, Ameel Shamsi, has been praised in the entire episode. Shamsi reached the Gomtinagar thana and stayed with him throughout to ensure the organizer was not unduly harassed during his questioning at the police station. He also ensured Sinha was released and reached home safely. “The situation became very tense and it was important to see that the matter remained in control and any possible retaliation/ violence was averted.

“We don’t really blame the organizer. He accepted to host the event in good faith. The pity is that a person from within the community tried to commercialize a tragedy like Karbala without understanding what repercussions their action may have. The artiste being a Shia, should have known that playing with the sentiments of a community mourning its martyrs for centuries, can have an explosive reaction,” was the reaction from several Shias on the entire episode.

Several of Naqvi’s relatives too, have expressed “disgust” over his action and distanced themselves from him, post this public humiliation. Naqvi is reportedly not answering his calls and virtually scared to venture out since he has been threatened with physical violence by some irate members of his community.

Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi 

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Shirin Abbas

Dr. Shirin Abbas is the Bureau Chief "TheIndiaObserver.Com". She is a world-renowned journalist, winner of several national and international awards for her contribution to Media Research.The first recipient of the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship for Print Journalism in 1999 from her state of Uttar Pradesh. Under the same, she studied at the School of Media, Communication, and Design at the University Of Westminster, London and interned with The Irish Times, Dublin. She has been a journalist for over three decades, working at several national English dailies in North India. She completed her PhD. in Mass Communication in 2016.

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