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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March, 2003, 07:14 GMT
Singers lament Kashmir fall-out

By Rajyasri Rao
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Singer Anup Jalota (left) and father
Anup Jalota (left) says his protest is not a grudge

A group of leading Indian singers is up in arms against the Indian Government.

Their complaint is that Delhi is far too hospitable to Pakistani artists, while Islamabad continues to treat Indian performers "shoddily".

The two countries are locked in a stand-off over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Relations between them remain badly strained since tensions took them to the brink of war last year.

'No way to treat us'

One well-known Indian singer, Anup Jalota, told the BBC it was not a personal grudge against his counterparts across the border.

Delhi should either ban Pakistani artists from coming here - or ensure that we are allowed to go there and be treated well
Abhijeet
Playback singer

He said the protest was against the way he and his colleagues had been treated by the authorities in Islamabad.

"Just last year, I was granted a visa to travel to Pakistan for a concert but none of my musicians were," said Mr Jalota, who is known for his sensitive renditions of mystical and romantic songs.

"What's the point? I cannot perform without them, can I?"

But Mr Jalota made it clear that he had nothing against the Pakistani artists.

"Some of them are dear friends - but I want them to tell their government that this is no way to treat us," he said.

'Diplomatic ping-pong'

Another leading playback singer, Abhijeet, told the BBC that although he had never been at the receiving end of such treatment himself, he wants to be part of this campaign to highlight the issue.

coming out now with this protest is obviously a sign that they have had enough and want things to change
Music critic Shanta Serbjeet Singh

"I am unhappy with the way things are. Just as a child goes to his parent to complain - I'm going to my national guardian, our government."

Mr Abhijeet said that a group of non-governmental agencies had written on their behalf to various ministries in Delhi about the issue.

"Delhi should either ban Pakistani artists from coming here - or ensure that we are allowed to go there and be treated well."

Ali Aznat, of the Pakistani band Junoon, did not agree that Indian musicians were being treated any worse than their Pakistani counterparts.

It was less a case of formal restrictions than a kind of "diplomatic ping-pong", he said.

"It's all bureaucratic and then there are also religious factions," he told the BBC World Today programme.

"It's quite sad. There are unseen forces which are preventing some artists on both sides from crossing over."

'Discrimination'

But the problem is apparently not new.

Music critic and columnist Shanta Serbjeet Singh says Indian artists have for years now felt discriminated against by Pakistani authorities.

"Although the problem is an old one, the artists' community has always been wary of rocking the boat by making their complaint public," she told the BBC.

"It has had to do with this notion of needing to keep the government on their side - as one of their chief patrons.

"But their coming out now with this protest is obviously a sign that they have had enough and want things to change."

It isn't yet clear how Delhi will respond to these protests - but critics say the musicians are unlikely to stop their campaign anytime soon.




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