You organise a major concert, which gets cancelled at the last minute because you don't have the required permissions. Do you:
A) Accept responsibility, cancel the concert and resolve to do better next time?
B) Try slapdash fixes, and when that fails, try to avoid responsibility while blaming others?
If you're Sunburn, the event organisers of the David Guetta concert in Bengaluru that got cancelled, you'd choose B. Why? To save face, even if it makes your country look bad.
When news broke on 12 January that David Guetta's concert in Bengaluru was cancelled, it understandably drew a lot of attention. After all, not only is David Guetta a high profile Grammy award-winning artist with a huge following in the city, but the concert has allegedly been in the works since 2016.
It therefore came as a surprise that the concert was cancelled abruptly on the very day it was scheduled to take place.This surprise quickly turned to anger, which was exacerbated by the result of the concert organiser's statement on the cancellation:
"Due to the present law & order situation in Bengaluru following the events that transpired around New Year's Eve, the authorities have recommended against holding the David Guetta concert scheduled today in the city."
The implication of this statement is clear. The Bangalore police, incapable of providing a safe environment to concert goers, have chosen to cancel the concert rather than attempt at effective crowd control. Such an indictment of the Bangalore police seemed believable, especially in the aftermath of the alleged molestation incidents in the city on New Year's Eve.
However, after talking to the Bangalore Police, it immediately becomes clear that the truth is very far removed from the statement issued by Sunburn.
After being bashed, both by social media users and news channels, the Bangalore police finally came out with a statement. Their statement read very differently from Sunburn's own, pointing out that the concert had been cancelled due to permission being sought only at the last minute.
Amit Singh, The SP of Bangalore Rural, under whose jurisdiction the concert venue falls, told Catch that permission for the concert was only sought on Monday, 9 January, 3 days before the concert was to be held. This information is at odds with Sunburn's original statement, leading to the organisers issuing a follow-up statement:
However, even in this statement the organisers have done their best to avoid admitting their culpability in the fiasco. Suddenly, the cancellation that Sunburn had previously put down to the "present law & order situation" following the NYE incidents, was now due to a date clash with the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) polls, during which, once again, the police could not provide adequate security.
Suspiciously missing from the first statement was any mention of permission being sought late, and in the second, when that is acknowledged, it is explained away by saying that this was due to a last minute change in venue. What isn't mentioned however, is that the reason for the change in venue was neither the venue or the police's fault. It was Sunburn's own for confirming a venue without obtaining the necessary permissions for it. Permissions they were denied late last week,
Once that little bit of information is made clear, it becomes evident that this concert was not the victim of the police's inability, but the event organisers' ironic lack of organisation, as well as their sense of entitlement.
Entitlement & event mismanagement
David Guetta is no small name. The man has had singles that have topped music charts worldwide, won Grammys and shared stages with some of the world's most famous artists. This fame has translated to India too, where Guetta has millions of fans. His last concerts in the country have drawn thousands of fans who have packed out venues to see the EDM artist perform.
This was to be the case this time as well. Manuj Agarwal, one of the organisers, told Catch that the original plan was to have between 15,000-18,000 attendees. With that expectation for attendance, security and event permissions should be the first thing that any event organiser should see to. However, as has now become clear, Sunburn jumped the gun.
With just a confirmation from the artist as well as the initial venue, which fell within the Bangalore City limits, they began selling tickets for the concert even before obtaining required permissions. When they weren't able to obtain these permissions, they shifted venues to one that fell within the limits of Bangalore Rural.
However, this shift was only communicated to the Bangalore Rural police on Saturday, 7 January, less than a week before the concert. Worse, it was only officially applied for two whole days later, as Sunburn had yet to finalise the venue. However, the police claim contact was only made on 10 January.
With this being the case, it is ridiculously highhanded of the organisers to expect arrangements be made on such a short notice. SP of Bangalore Rural, Amit Singh tells Catch that such a process should be started at least 30 days prior to an event, not a week. "See, this needs to be informed well in advance," Singh says, "After all, there are lots of things that need to be planned like installing CCTVs, traffic arrangement, how many personnel to deploy."
Singh, also makes it clear that the police force was already to be deployed to maintain law and order during the Agricultural Produce Market Committee polls that are to be held around the same dates as the concert. "Even if they'd come to us earlier, we would have told them to change the date as there is already elections happening on that date," says Singh, making it clear that the concert was never possible at the venue on the said date.
When they received a final 'no', the day before the concert, the organisers still scrambled to pull strings to make the concert happen, further displaying a lack of concern for public safety and protocol. Only when they realised it was well and truly impossible, did they break the news on the morning of the concert, 12 January.
Maligning the police and country
Despite being so clearly in the wrong here, Sunburn instead decided to scapegoat Bangalore's police force. Their first statement on the cancellation was so woefully worded that it set the entire might of India's media, a media not best known for restraint, on a police force that had done nothing wrong.
Had it not been for the police's statement, Sunburn would have managed to shirk all responsibility for the debacle while the Bangalore police would have been blamed.
This would have been doubly unjust given that the Bangalore police actually acted in an exemplary manner in this case. They refused to compromise on public safety and security. The fact that the concert might still happen within the coming week, if David Guetta can work out the logistics with Sunburn, is further evidence of a diligent and hardworking set of cops, ready to mobilise so that Bangaloreans can have a good time.
Manuj Agarwal, to his credit, did make it clear that the Bangalore police were not at fault here. However, his defence of Sunburn's original statement is also not too convincing. "We had to inform the fans and we had to do it in a way that they understand what the [police's] concerns were. The message cannot go across saying that we were not prepared, or that the authorities are being unreasonable." Clearly though, they placed more effort on protecting themselves rather than the authorities.
The damage done by Sunburn's abdication of responsibility is not just to the Bangalore Police, but to Bangalore itself, and, on a larger scale, India. It portrayed the country as one where law and order is rampantly out of hand, and could deter artists from performing in the country in the future. If Sunburn hoped to put India on the map by bringing in global artists, they may just have succeeded in taking India off the map for them instead.