The controversy around the Kochi Music Foundation's concert in November 2019 called Karuna has got murkier with a war of words starting between filmmaker Aashiq Abu and Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden.
Meanwhile, Ernakulam District Collector in a letter to the Foundation has said that he was not their patron and such a claim should not be made.
On November 1, 2019, KMF had organised a music fest at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Kochi and declared that the proceedings from the concert would be donated to the Chief Minister's Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF). However, an RTI reply from the CM office said that this money had not been deposited.
Kochi Music Foundation was formed by a group of musicians and filmmakers, to organise Karuna, an annual music event. KMF founders include music composer Bijibal, Shahabaz Aman, filmmaker Aashiq Abu, actor Rima Kallingal, writer Syam Pushkaran and singer Sithara.
After the RTI reply came out, KMF paid Rs 6,22,000 towards the ticket sales on February 14. However, the latest controversy is regarding a Facebook spar between Aashiq Abu and Hibi Eden.
Hibi Eden through a Facebook post had demanded that KMF should make its payment to the government public. He also added that if KMF was not ready to do that, then the government should start an inquiry and not give any concessions as Aashiq and others are Left sympathisers.
In a reply to this post, Aashiq Abu made public the cheque that KMF handed over to the CM's fund. However along with taking potshots at Hibi Eden's office for asking free tickets to the concert, Aashiq also said that Karuna was not a concert held to collect funds, but the organisers had decided to donate the ticket sales to the CM's fund.
Hibi Eden hit back with a letter that was written on October 16, 2019 by Bijibal and Shahabaz Aman to the Regional Sports Center that manages the stadium. In the letter asking for allotment of the stadium, the duo says, "We are organizing our first official event 'Karuna' in November as an effort to raise funds for the CM Flood Relief Fund".
Hibi Eden questioned Aashiq's Facebook post and alleged that the latter had been lying about the purpose of conducting the concert. He also said that the Regional Sports Center had not given the stadium to KMF 'lovingly' as Aashiq had mentioned, but it was due to pressure from the Chief Minister's office that permission was granted by the reluctant RSC council.
Speaking to TNM, Bijibal said that the concert was not originally intended as a fund raising programme and this is what Aashiq Abu pointer out in his FB post. "It was supposed to be the first major music festival in the state with many musicians agreeing to come to perform for us for free, only out of friendship. It was the decision of the foundation to give the sales from the tickets to the CMDRF. It's also true that we called the first event Karuna because the ticket sales were going to help flood victims. But what we called the success of the event was the magic of harmony created by so many musicians coming together. You had to be there to understand it. It did not mean that it was financially a success. For any event to be financially successful you need sponsors, you can't make a lot of money from ticket sales alone. And unfortunately we didn't have any sponsors."
He agreed that KMF had paid the CM's fund in posthaste. "Now this controversy has been raised and it's true that we paid the amount immediately afterwards. In our mind, we thought it was enough to pay it before the end of the financial year. But since the controversy rose, we took out money from our pockets and paid," he said.
Meanwhile, District Collector S Suhas has written to KMF and asked them not to use his name as a patron and it would attract legal action. The Collector was referring to a Facebook post by KMF which referred to the Collector as a patron 'who had not asked them for an explanation'.
Yuva Morcha leader Sandeep Varier who had published the RTI document first meanwhile asked the government for a probe into the issue.
(Inputs by Cris)