The Show Ends in Mumbai: Why U2 Must Reconsider Its Gig in Modi's India
CJ Werleman is in danger of burning his ‘Rattle and Hum’ Tour T-Shirt after the Irish band’s recent announcement that its ‘Joshua Tree’ Tour will end in Mumbai.
We all have that one band that we were willing to get into fights with friends and strangers over as teenagers and even young adults. Mine was the Irish rock band U2, and I interpreted any criticism of its band members Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jnr as a direct and unconscionable attack on me.
When I say I love U2, I really mean I love U2.
In fact, and I say this with some degree of embarrassment, U2 is the only one true music love I have ever known. All the other bands of my generation out there can go and get stuffed. Yes, that includes you, Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Whenever compelled to defend the integrity and achievements of my personal rock idols, I always believed the weight of evidence to be on my side. I would cite their countless number one hit singles, half dozen number one best selling albums, and the fact they have sold an estimated 170 million records worldwide as corroborating testimony to support my argument, at least until the fists started flying in the playground.
Clearly, performing in India is inconsistent with the values and causes U2 has long championed.
It wasn’t just U2’s melodic and unique sound that I was endeared to. It was also the way in which the lyrics to its songs spoke to revolution and the self-sacrificial pursuit of social justice. The song ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ took the band from the status of British chart-topper to global sensation, the lyrics speak to the massacre of 13 Irish citizens killed by British paratroopers during a civil rights protest held in Derry, Northern Ireland on January 30, 1972.
Social justice issues and human rights have always been at the core of the band’s identity and being – having campaigned on behalf of philanthropic causes across the globe for four decades.
In his book The World and U2: One Band’s Remaking of Global Activism, professor Alan McPherson documents the band’s philanthropy after also being drawn to the group because of its international activism.
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In an interview with KGOU’s World Views, McPherson quantified the band’s benevolent achievements this way:
“In terms of reducing the debt of highly indebted poor countries, they probably reduced those debts by about $90 billion, and that is a lot of money. And that money we now know now has gone to 51 million more children in Africa attending schools. He lobbied the George W. Bush administration into increasing the amounts devoted to AIDS prevention and now 9 million people in Africa are alive because of that money…I mean the band altogether probably has 40 causes and charities that they are into.”
So, with all that said, imagine my horror when I scrolled through my Twitter feed to see U2 has announced it will wrap up its 2019 ‘The Joshua Tree’ tour with a concert in Mumbai on December 15, making it the first time the band has performed in India.
India? At the very moment the international community, which includes influential global artists such as U2, should be boycotting India for its repressive moves in Kashmir, which have effectively locked 8 million Muslims in an open-air prison, my favorite rock band is bragging about performing in India.
“We’re much looking forward to bringing a dash of Dublin to Mumbai, India – a country famous for its rich culture of art, music, movies, theater, literature, food and so much more,” band member Adam Clayton said. “There is a lot of excitement in the U2 camp.”
While all of what Clayton says is true, India is also a country now famous for sabotaging its secular democratic character in favor of a virulent form of religious-based extremism – Hindu nationalism – one in which it draws its inspiration from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the Nazi Party, which has paved the way for an unprecedented level of violence against religious minorities, particularly against Muslims since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.
Worse – these acts of violence carried out by Hindu nationalists against religious minorities enjoy the tacit, and sometimes implicit, support of the police, judiciary and government, with members of the country’s ruling party routinely referring to Muslims as “invaders,” “pests,” and “terrorists.”
Then there’s also the fact India is constructing a network of concentration camps along its eastern border to warehouse upwards of 2 million migrants, mostly Muslims, in the state of Assam, who’ve had their citizenship stripped as component of Modi’s effort to pander to the worst impulses of those who wish to transform the country’s secular and multicultural identity into a Hindu-only state.
Clearly, performing in India is inconsistent with the values and causes U2 has long championed. Thankfully, however, the band has nearly a full three months to reconsider its ill-advised decision, which means it falls upon fans to let the group and its management know exactly how it is we feel.
What I feel is my 1988 ‘Rattle and Hum’ tour t-shirt will be set on flames should U2 continues with its plan to perform in Modi’s India.