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Opinion » Comment

Updated: August 28, 2013 02:10 IST
Nation in a state - Jammu and Kashmir

Discordant notes

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
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Music conductor Zubin Mehta rehearses ahead of his two concert, in Mumbai on Wednesday.
PTI Music conductor Zubin Mehta rehearses ahead of his two concert, in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Separatist opposition creates uncertainty over a concert to be conducted by Zubin Mehta in the Valley

Even before the outbreak of secessionist militancy in 1989, events seen as having the potential to alter the ‘disputed’ status of Jammu and Kashmir became enmeshed in controversy — for instance, the international cricket match in Srinagar in 1983 that culminated unforeseeably in the creation of an organised movement that saw Mushtaqul Islam floating the Hizbullah in 1990.

Thirty years later, the controversy around Zubin Mehta’s concert Ehsaas-e-Kashmir, being organised by the German embassy at Shalimar Bagh on September 7 is no surprise.

Much before leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed the suspicion that the show was an attempt to project Kashmir as “normal” and “peaceful”, the Germans were already getting a bad press.

When Ambassador Michael Steiner said at a news conference in Srinagar that Germany “recognised” Kashmir’s legitimate, democratic institutions — namely, the elected State government — he was questioned if Europe’s one-time description of Kashmir “the world’s most beautiful prison” in 2004 had changed to dealing exclusively with the pro-Indian politicians and the establishment in 2013. Much to the chagrin of separatists, Western diplomats have abandoned their tradition of visiting their leaders for photo sessions in Srinagar and granting them appointment in New Delhi.

Ambassador Steiner’s initiatives on German language classes in Kashmir University, and his friendship with vice chancellor Prof. Talat Ahmad — respected in pro-government circles for eliminating the organised promotion of separatist ideology from the campus and inviting Congress leaders such as Rahul Gandhi and Jairam Ramesh to meet students — also did not go down well.

Media reports claiming that “hundreds of crores of rupees” were being spent on ferrying 400 artists of Mr. Mehta’s Bavarian State Orchestra and their equipment in dozens of chartered flights from Germany to Srinagar have only added salt to separatist hurt.

Even as the separatists felt ignored, the organisers appeared to have increased the frequency of their interactions with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Governor N.N. Vohra. Clearly, this concert would be different from the NGO-organised Terra Naomi concert of December 2009 — JKLF chairman Yasin Malik had been present among the Kashmiri youth who attended the event.

Indian Army operation

With the growing feeling in the separatist camp that the Western diplomatic community has joined hands with New Delhi to marginalise the Kashmiri struggle, Mehta’s concert is being dismissed as part of the Indian Army’s “Goodwill Operation” and thus “an extension of the military occupation and colonialism”. That there is no evidence of the Indian Army helping the concert organisers is seen as irrelevant.

There is now a full-fledged campaign in the media to ensure that ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’ meets the same fate as ‘Harud’, Kashmir’s first ever literary festival that had to be aborted in September 2011. But unlike the the LitFest organisers, who threw in the towel acknowledging “a victory for a vocal minority who feel that they alone are the doorkeepers to people's minds and hearts”, the German embassy is unlikely to surrender.

From the Pakistani band Junoon to the Egyptian Derveshs, the visits of artists and musicians from different countries have never gone down well with those who believe that these could be used as an epitaph of the separatist movement, or the “Kashmir cause”. Some would call it “infringement to religious, cultural and social sensibilities” as projected in Mufti Azam Basheeruddin’s fatwa against Kashmir’s first all-girl band, Pragaash, in February 2013, but it is hard not to think that the band might have been accepted had it made its debut with a song extolling freedom.

The German embassy has already issued a clarification that the September 7 concert is a completely apolitical event. In an interview to Greater Kashmir, Mr. Steiner said it was decided to hold the concert in the Valley because “[w]e think Kashmir deserves recognition for its culture and history”. Famous Kashmiri composers Bhajan Sopori and Waheed Jeelani too have declared their support for the Mehta concert, emphasising that there was nothing “indecent or political” about it.

“It’s a huge classical orchestra. There are no electronic instruments, not even a guitar, no jazz, no pop, no rock. It’s much like our own devotional Sufiana,” Mr. Sopori explained to The Hindu.

But as the day of the concert draws closer, it is being give newer dimensions by those who want no part of it.

“For us, it’s an Israel-India-America axis of evil. They make every attempt to weaken the Islamic movements and strengthen the Zionist Israeli State. Clearly, this is such an attempt,” Dukhtaraan-e-Millat’s Naheeda Nasreen told The Hindu, calling attention to what she said were Mr. Mehta’s “Israeli connections” — his connections with the Israel Philharmonic and awards from Israel.

It remains to be seen how successfully the Germans wade out of the storm.

More In: Comment | Opinion

Any organisation or movement that see music as a threat to their ideology can't be pro-people.

from:  Kundan
Posted on: Aug 29, 2013 at 01:46 IST

Islam mixes politics with religion, but not with music. The separatists want some attention. Their organization must be declared a terrorists organization. They must be charged with sedation.
Please do not bring communal feeling.

from:  nirode mohanty
Posted on: Aug 29, 2013 at 01:13 IST

Your analysis is well sounding but you fall in the trap of justifying every event that antagonises the muslim mentality. This is relevant in India, South Africa or any where else in the world. The excuse of blocking intellectual debate is wearing thin. The concert by a world renounwed musicic personality is being used by the separatists to highlight their couse...justified or not. it is time that we saw through this veil masquariding as a just cause. the concert must go on for the sake of the majority. Blackmail must not be allowed to succeed.

from:  Viren Rambiritch
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 23:44 IST

I didn't realize Islam is so weak that a music concert will weaken it. Where are all the "intellectuals" and civil society leaders and artists who like freedom of expression so much?
These people will share the podium with people like Geelani when they want to criticize India and Hindus. What happened to their intellectualism and values and conscience?

from:  Hemant
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 18:47 IST

"For us, it’s an Israel-India-America axis of evil. They make every attempt to weaken the Islamic movements and strengthen the Zionist Israeli State....." This is a mindset. Imagine a concert being considered in such terms. If such is the mindset then nothing can be done about it. Instead of looking at themselves for shortcomings it is now become very convenient to blame all and sundry for the affairs of muslim world. Tomorrow some preacher will say that its the US which is killing in Syria and the same will be believed without thinking. This mindset has become prime reason for backwardness. Rather than concentrate energies for something good or in thinking for betterment separatists indulge in such statements and actions and what is particularly amazing is that it is consumed without much thought. If today attention is paid towards crores being spent to bring Mr Mehta's orchestra from Bavaria then have they not applied their mind in figuring out cost of militancy?

from:  Balram Rathod
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 16:59 IST

Germans have a test case in hand,any submission to Kashmiri pan
Islamists,negates Germany's claim of aversion to the menace of Global
Jihad.
World chose silence when at the advent of Kashmir Jihad two decades ago
aboriginal Kashmiri Pandits suffered India's only ethnic
cleansing,growing outrage against those resisting innocuous music-
concert triggers optimism that there now awareness about insidious
spread of the virus of Talibanisation in Kashmir.

from:  Lalit Ambardar
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 16:40 IST

The proposed German music concert in kashmir can never be apolitical as there exists no such thing as apolitical.You are either politically active or passive.The music concert is heavily loaded with political,cultural and religious implications as every such event is.

from:  aijaz manzoor
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 14:18 IST

Kashmir problem is basically problem of religious intolerance if the Kasmiri pandits and other hindus are driven away...Kashmiriyath is pureli fundamentalistic when Chraresharif like incidents are remembered.
from:  sontu uday
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 14:09 IST

I dont know whether Kashmiri leaders like Geelani and Mirwaz read Pakistani newspapers or not. But wish they read and know themselves the condition of people belonging to Baltistan , Gilgit area. If they know the situation in Balochistan then they will realize that grass is not greener on other side of the border. As for freedom!! they are free because they are part of India. Otherwise they would have become like Tibet or POK.

from:  masa
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 13:59 IST

The music always brings solace and peace and should not be discriminated on religious lines. Kashmir otherwise a picturesque heaven is turned into a hell by separatists and Pro-Pakistani elements who do not want that peace should return to Kashmir for their own survival. If lasting peace has to return to Kashmir, Kashmiris have to raise their voice against elements of hatred and violence to encourage such events.

from:  Vijay Raina
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 12:50 IST

It is blatantly wrong to think it from either the separatists point of
view or the organiser's point of view, what does this concert mean to
a comman Kashmiri person is what should matter, leaving aside the
notion whether the concert is political or apolitical, the foremost
thing wrong with such a concert is that it will definitely give a
wrong impression to the 50 foreign countries where it will be
telecasted,they will see a beautiful concert performed in serene
gardens and attended by the elite of Kashmir and few hand picked
students, they will not be told that howsoever the militancy has been
curbed but the people are still reeling under harsh conditions of
curfews, internet and mobile blockades and draconian laws, the second
thing is that such a huge sum of money could have been utilised
somewhere else to serve a better purpose like funding education,
health sector or even the dying art and culture of Kashmir

from:  Shafqat Khan
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 12:23 IST

May be Mehta is being confused for Menuhin.

from:  Hilary Pais
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 11:25 IST

They are not separatists. They are anti-national elements.

from:  S C Vaid
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 11:20 IST

It is a shame that people have forgotten the essence of music and
started playing communal politics on it.

from:  Nitish Sharma
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 09:44 IST

Sorry Mr. Separatist. Your brand of talibanism and violence is not by any stretch of
imagination freedom. A largely secular and plural India is providing better opportunities for
its citizens. Freedom of worship is irrespective of the religion one belongs to is practiced
emphatically, without restrictions as seen in the west. Freedom of not following any religion
and living a life based one's ethical compass is also guaranteed in India. So what are you
fighting for? Your brand of violence unfortunately begets only more violence, trapping
thousands of innocents in Kashmir in the cross fire. We hope that you fade away soon, or
retreat to across the border, where you came from.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 07:01 IST

"Even as the separatists felt ignored, the organisers appeared to have
increased the frequency of their interactions with Chief Minister Omar
Abdullah and Governor N.N. Vohra."... What a mean statement ! Fayyaz Ali
towing the line of mainstream Indians just to draw salary !

from:  Mansoor Ahmad
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 06:54 IST

The Key to the success is good management.I dont mean MBA type which is
dreamland degree.I mean Triple-E Econonomy,Environment,Education.The
countries which manage these three will see the people support and stick
to the country and those who dont manage will see themselves slowly die.
United Kingdom thrives because of that and India slowly crawls along
because the Hindus themselves are running away because of the Government
fail.Kashmir is no different and is part of the whole Indian Scene.

from:  Paul.V.John
Posted on: Aug 28, 2013 at 05:52 IST
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