Wherever your allegiances lie, Mr Mehta, I least care about. Whatever the intentions of the people organizing your concert in the beautiful vale of Kashmir, I must say I don’t care anymore. Wondering about this change of heart? All right, let me share the reason for my excitement.
When Hurriyat leader Ayaz Akbar Bhat said that the visit of Zubin Mehta to the disputed state has ‘proved to be a blessing in disguise’, I was like ‘wow’. International media, which had almost forgotten the oppression in picturesque Valley for reasons economic over the years, are making a beeline to the camps of pro-freedom leaders. Besides getting to know why these leaders oppose the concert, they also get a picture of human rights violations in the state.
Even before the renowned conductor would conduct the Bavarian Orchestra in Shalimar Gardens on the world famous, but dying, Dal Lake in Srinagar city, we have something very significant thing to cheer about – a concert is being organised in opposition to showcase ‘the reality of Kashmir’.
Only ingenuous would have us believe that Mehta’s concert in Kashmir is ‘apolitical’, but that is no more my concern – after all, thanks to Mehta – we have a robust civil society coming to the fore that has made clear it message: we are not bigots opposing music but we don’t want the Indian government to use this concert, the way it uses local elections, to obfuscate the real situation in Kashmir, whitewash its crimes and portray that everything is hunky-dory here.
Leave aside threats from obscure militant outfits, Kashmiris have shown a mature opposition to the concert by making preparations for the ‘Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir” (the reality of Kashmir) concert, scheduled to be held just miles away from the Mehta’s venue. We are hearing reports that authorities have confiscated the material (posters and banners) from the organisers of this concert and are not even allowing people to carry water bottles inside the municipal park, venue of the concert. This was expected of the government whose remote-control lies in New Delhi, but the initiative making such an impact is certainly something the civil society in Kashmir should feel proud of. After all, they have conveyed their message, loud and clear.
We have some sections of Indian media, as usual, trying hard to portray that Kashmiris are against music – likening the opposition to Zubin Mehta’s concert with online threats from fringe elements to now disbanded all-girl rock band Pragaash. But that shouldn’t be a cause of worry as coming up with parallel concert which will feature the sufferings of Kashmiris in the form of songs of resistance, poems and artworks, has dispelled those notions.
Attempts are also being made to divide the Kashmiri society by drawing a line between pro-and anti-Zubin sections. Needless to say, everyone has a right to voice his/her opinion in a healthy debate, but that can’t be termed as a division in the society. Yes, there are people who support the Zubin Mehta concert, in fact, the majority would have supported it had it been organized by some private players, instead of the state government.
At the end, I would like to point out one important thing: the concert has not been organized for the people of Kashmir. Had it been so, the roads wouldn’t have been barricaded and people wouldn’t have been forced to stay away from the venue. How can we say that through this concert the organizers, German ambassador and the governments at the state and the Centre “want to reach the hearts of Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement” when general public – which consists of music lovers too, are not lining up for tickets? In fact, most of the valley’s reputed musicians were not invited, too.