Indian nationality: In 2002, when I couldn’t oblige singer Adnan Sami

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Rifat Jawaid

Famous singer Adnan Sami on Friday received his certificate of Indian citizenship from Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju in Delhi.

Sami, who held Pakistani nationality, thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for granting him the Indian citizenship.

He tweeted;

Not many would know that the singer had first expressed his desire to apply for Indian citizenship way back in 2002.

Speaking exclusively to me (then with the BBC) at his Mumbai residence, Sami had said how he was keen to apply for Indian nationality. When reminded about a potential backlash in Pakistan, the singer denied that he ever belonged to the neighbouring country.

He had told me, “I’m not Pakistani. I was born in London, lived most of my life in Canada and my father belonged to Afghanistan. My mother was an Indian from the state of Jammu and Kashmir and for your information my grandfather was a governor in Afghanistan.”

Soon after the interview was over, Sami realised the potential backlash back ‘home.’ He sent his emissary to catch me on my way to the Sony Studio, where I had another interview lined up with Sandeep Chowta, whose career as a music composer was on ascendancy after hits like Company, Ashoka, Jungle and Pyar Tune Kya Kiya.

The lady manager of Sami made a ‘desperate’ plea to edit out the portion where he had spoken about having no link with Pakistan and his intention to apply for Indian citizenship.

Personally, I was against the idea of editing the requested portion because that formed the heart of the editorial and I had  not indulged in any unethical means to make him utter those words. Whatever Sami had said, he had done so of his own volition.

But, keeping my long-term relationship with Sami in mind, I promised his emissary that I would refer her request to my editor, Mohammed Hanif (now A Case Of Exploding Mangoes fame acclaimed writer). Fortunately, Hanif too shared my views and we decided to go ahead with our plan to run the interview both in Urdu and English.

I also made the content of my interview available for our websites (Yes we were expected to do everything ourselves unlike Indian media, where we have made our journalists lazy). No sooner had I published the content of my interview with Sami on the website, newsrooms in Pakistan experienced a frenzy of sorts.

Soon, from Jang in Urdu to Dawn in English, news websites across Pakistan were lifting our headlines published on BBCUrdu.com, ‘Main Pakistani Shahri Nahi Hoon-Adnan Sami Khan (I am not a Pakistani national-Adnan Sami Khan).’

The development even prompted some people in Pakistan to burn Sami’s effigies. With this, my own personal relationship with Sami got burnt forever.

I must confess I haven’t tried to meet him since that episode fearing an ‘unfavlourable’ response, but I would love to interview him for jantakareporter.com. I sincerely hope the singer realises that I was only doing my job as a journalist. That’s what good journalists do!

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