Why has Zubin Mehta concert become a raging controversy in Kashmir?

Srinagar:┬áIt’s a bizarre case of a concert becoming controversial in a land known for poets, singers and musicians for ages. But, those opposing the Sept 7 concert here of the Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by the India-born and world-renowned Zubin Mehta believe they have valid reasons to do so.Why has Zubin Mehta concert become a raging controversy in KashmirGerman ambassador to India Michael Steiner announced that the concert would be held in the famous Shalimar Garden on the banks of the Dal Lake. And, for a concert of this standing, Kashmir was expected to host a national and international audience of music lovers.

Normally, anybody who loves music or has even a remote sense of aesthetic appreciation would like to attend the concert for the sheer fame of the person conducting it.

Composes like Beethoven, Hayden and Tchaikovsky are not unheard of in Kashmir, although Western classical music definitely doesn’t have many followers here.

“But, as world-famous sitar maestro Ravi Shankar once said, music has no language. It catches your imagination and holds you spellbound whether or not you understand the finer points”, said a local singer/musician who did not want to be named for obvious reasons.

Kashmiri separatist leaders as also the local Grand Mufti and civil society members have opposed the Zubin Mehta concert for political reasons. The first statement against the concert came on expected lines from hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who said an international event like this would tends to give legitimacy to Indian rule in Kashmir.

Geelani also referred to an international cricket match in Kashmir between India and West Indies in 1983 when some locals stormed the field and had dug up the pitch to stop the match.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chairman of the moderate separatist Hurriyat group, said in his statement that instead of spending huge sums of money on holding the concert, the German ambassador would do better by trying to help education, healthcare and the other needs of the Kashmiri people.

Grand Mufti Basher-ud-Din, who had previously hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons for opposing an all-girls’ music band, said holding the Zubin Mehta concert in a “disputed land would convey a wrong signal internationally…(that) Kashmiris have enough prosperity and leisure to attend an event like this”.

Interestingly, the Grand Mufti said he had initially decided not to comment on the event, but had been approached by social and religious groups to speak on the issue as a religious head.

Civil society members said in a statement: “Germany must accept the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir and recognise the pain and legitimate political and legal struggle of its people.”

Despite the opposition to the event, sources in the state government said it has been decided to hold the event anyway.

“Not holding the event after opposition from separatists would send out a disturbing signal. Well, the separatists would not want any cultural activity to be held in Kashmir as that is not part of their agenda”, said a senior ruling National Conference leader here.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has so far maintained a discreet silence on the opposition to the concert.

Known otherwise for posting quick comments on his widely-followed Twitter site on separatist campaigns, Abdullah has steered clear of getting involved in a war of attrition with the separatists over the event.

Well, not many people believe Kashmir would explode in some sort of a violent frenzy if a musician conducts his orchestra in Kashmir. Nor does anybody believe that holding the concert would change the ground realities here.

– Sheikh Qayoom (IANS)

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2 Comments

  1. says: Rouf Khan

    If the event happens, this will only be attended by some VIPs, blue eyed babus and some India loyal politicians. As always there would be no place for common Kashmiri who will again be caged. Further Govt. has already started to potray the event for political patornage. So music no longer remained just music…….

  2. says: Vineet

    Well there are some issue’s that can be discerned, if we just care to look

    The name itself is a misnomer when its an invite only — what Ehsaas is being “mooted” here……..

    There is definitely some kind of “political” expediency in holding the concert … only the exceedingly naive would believe otherwise. If not,how in the dickens can a western classical concert better the lives of folks in Kashmir when the daily peril of living under constant fear would still be there.Understand that the state or most parts of it are under draconian laws and civil liberties are trampled with impunity.

    The separatist’s may have an agenda but its not only them who have done a disservice to Kashmir…… the ruling elites of the state, the South Block Mandarins, the
    policies of the Indian State, a pesky neighbour that wants to settle scores with us….all have turned the State into a quagmire at the risk of its inhabitants …both Pandits as well as Muslims.They have lost so much …. a loss which which we do not even comprehend..or even empathize with..

    The “democratically elected” government of the state …has kept the separatist leader Geelani under strict house arrest from March ….surely what are we afraid of …..this is not a mature response and does not
    behoove us as a democratic society.

    In no way can this symbolize normalcy though i would have wished it to be a more egalitarian event .. for the people of Kashmir and its children and not an extremely posh invite only which beats its very purpose. But i still have a lingering doubt that how is it that this concert would help us fellow Indians understand the pain that is called Kashmir without being judgmental and jingoistic .

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