Author: Saadut
•6:33 PM


Coming fall Zubin Mehta is going to perform at Shalimar Bagh in Srinagar, on 7th September. With one of the best known orchestras of the world, the Bavarian State Orchestra from Munich, he will perform Beethoven, Hayden, and Tchaikovsky here. Zubin Mehta is a maestro in his own class and such people are more than welcome to be guests in Kashmir. The German Ambassador in India, Michael Steiner (the force behind this event) has termed this ‘Ehsas-e-Kashmir’ (‘Feelings of Kashmir’) as “a wonderful cultural tribute to Kashmir and Kashmiri people.”  “We want to reach the hearts of the Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement” he says.

There are no doubts about the good intentions behind this event, but will this “to reach the hearts of the Kashmiris” be limited to showcasing a Mughal era garden and picture perfect tourism clippings of Kashmir or will it actually put spotlight to the ‘heart of Kashmiris’? Music understands no boundaries, but will this performance not be used by the state to override the din of voices in Kashmir seeking redemption from conflict injustice? Will the state not use this event once more to portray the ‘all is well’ postcard, hiding the grim reality of Kashmir behind unending barricades?

While the Ambassador has refused to label the event as a peace effort, there surely will be efforts by the government to sell this event as “peace returns to Kashmir”. The same peace will have been made ‘out of bounds’ for commoners on that day by columns of armed forces and layers on concertina.

As the spot light in Kashmir is focused on Shalimar garden that day, the bigger image beyond the secure walls of these fortified gardens will be veiled and cloaked by the state, presenting one more touched up mask of Kashmir to the world. The political elites who will have grabbed exclusive passes to this event will, as always, pretend indifferent to a Kashmir beyond their intricately decorated, state sponsored palatial suites. And before these ‘political elites’ accuse me of anything, I am not against Zubin Mehta performing in Kashmir, rather am happy he wished to perform in the vale. I am against the indifference of these ‘political elites’ who will be rushing to grab seats in this event, presenting themselves as ‘The Only Kashmiris’. While the same ‘political elites’ take a detour from places where conflict inflicted Kashmiris sit in regular silent protests seeking justice.  Ever seen these ‘political elites’ speak for the maimed ‘heart of Kashmir’?

Even if for convenience sake, the Kashmir conflict linkages to this event were taken off, and the tourist linkages accepted. Would those claims by the state also not fall flat on its face with tourism having been used just as a ‘political PR exercise’ by the state? The lake that Zubin Mehta will be performing by is the best example of official corruption, thuggery and political auction in Kashmir using the ‘tourism’ label and ‘conflict alibi’. What remains of a once lake, is Asia’s largest septic tank, that is used by dwellers to pump in sewage and by bureaucrats and politicians to pump out and siphon funds. And for other convenient tourism postcards that the government may proudly sell, the travelers’ diaries behind these postcards will have been hidden conveniently. A meadow bowl having become a dough bowl, part littered with illegal construction, part illegally occupied by an army. A meadow in the west inaccessible by bad approaches that is only frequented by military trucks, another golden meadow by the North West already turned into a garrison by the army, grabbing whatever it can there. And a stretch of road circling around a dead lake, nauseating from the stench of its weedy corpse, extending encroachments on the parallel shores and human waste spewing houseboats, will be presented as ‘The Boulevard of Kashmir Tourism’. This event will be used by the political state in Kashmir as a presentation convenience to hide its ugly scars, a political state that has no other achievement to showcase.
As one of the best authorities on Kashmir tourism, Mr Mohammad Ashraf (Ex DG Tourism) writes in his FB post “Zubin Mehta will be playing Beethoven in Shalimar on the banks of the dying Dal. It surely is a brilliant idea of our so called rulers to get Beethoven to sound the "Last Post" of the dying Dal. It would have been a real service if instead they had put together a consortium of some global companies having expertise in restoring and conserving water bodies and handed them over on a turnkey basis on a time bound contract!”
Incidentally most of the admired works of Ludwig Van Beethoven were composed late in his life, when he turned totally deaf. Will his masterpieces aimed at ‘reaching the hearts of Kashmiris’ turn deaf to the heartrending wails beyond the confines of the fortifications of Shalimar?

Zubin Mehta playing in Kashmir is great news, but the Kashmir he wished to perform in and the Kashmir he visited with his wife Nancy Kovack and children in 1974 is no more. The Kashmir of today is a morgue of humanity, an extended graveyard of occupying conflict, bordering a dying lake. This performance can only be an ‘Ode to an annihilated Kashmir’. Will this ‘Ode’ share any of its spotlights on the battered and mutilated hearts of Kashmir?




P.S ; For the ‘political elites’ always eager to present themselves as ‘The Humans’ and who may be shouting ‘look, enemies of peace opposing Shalimar Event’; we are commemorating ‘International Day Of Disappeared Persons’ on Friday, 30th August 2013 at 10.00 AM, venue Pratap Park Srinagar / Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi / Tata Institute Of Social sciences, Mumbai. No invitations are required, let’s see how many of political elites’ attend this event.







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