Author: Saadut
•12:34 AM

When the politician claims “Music is part of our culture” and the musician claims “Music will soothe hearts” both of them are trying to play the pied piper in denial of any following. I am not against Zubin Mehta playing in Kashmir, his right as a free individual and an artist is not to be impugned by my criticism. I even may not agree with those whose 'only' opposition to his performance is because he is an Israeli citizen approving of Israeli grab of Palestine (that can be one of the reasons but not the only reason). Remember there are hordes of young Israeli tourists holidaying in Srinagar who have not only been a part of Israeli army (compulsory military service for both males and females there) but many of whom could have blood of innocent Palestinian on their hands. While I strongly oppose the Zionist policies of Israel towards Palestine, the Zubin Mehta event has more reasons for opposition than just these Israeli connections. 

The politician who tells you “music knows no boundaries” is hiding the fact of those impenetrable boundaries Nazi concentration camps, where these Jews were massacred and music used as a tool of torture. And so is the musician who claims “Music will soothe hearts (in Kashmir)”pretending blind to the suffocating boundaries the military dominated camp this valley has been turned into, somewhat akin to the concentration camps of yore.
Claiming “Zubin Mehta concert won’t affect Kashmir issue” is the acceptance of an earlier denial by the same politician. If performances and exhibitions of art or documentary work in Kashmir ‘won’t affect Kashmir issue’ why did the same government then ban screening of works like Sanjay Kak’s ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’ or a government funded documentary ‘Oceans of Tears’? Kashmir University that is eager to host Zubin Mehta’s performance, if weather plays spoilsport in Shalimar, was the same institution that barred the screening of ‘Oceans of Tears’, a Indian government sponsored documentary on crime against women in Kashmir? What happened to this ‘Ehsaas of Kashmir’ then, when the state scuttled all efforts to present the real face of Kashmir conflict and acknowledge the colossal sufferings of Kashmiris? It is this ironfisted state, that is using the Zubin Mehta performance to project Kashmir as the mask of Shalimar, while hiding the sores and scars it has inflicted outside the domains of these fortification, on common people. It is this jackboot state in denial and that uses such performances as a psychological tool that we have a problem with.

Has Zubin Mehta forgotten how in Nazi concentration camps music formed an escape and a torture method? How come he is in denial of how inmates were forced to perform music for the Nazi SS “after hours”, like music on command? This was not only done to force attention and submission, this ‘singing on command’ was also used by the guards to torture, frighten, humiliate and intimidate prisoners. And this would be forced after a long day’s hard work that these prisoners had gone thru. Any denial or shortcoming in following the ‘singing on command’ orders, like a low voice, a harsh tone, a too loud song or a deemed unpleasant song, would be severely punished by beatings  exclusions or other forms of torture by Nazis.

 “We sang in small groups, or one block would sing, or several thousand prisoners all at once. In the latter case, one of us had to conduct because otherwise it would not have been possible to keep time. Keeping time was very important: it had to be crisp, military, and above all loud. After several hours’ singing we were often unable to produce another note.”  (Karl Roder, prisoner in Dachau and Flossenburg concentration camps)

Even during normal routines of forced labor, singing was ordered as a compulsory accompaniment. More often this singing was used as a means of sadistic humiliation and torture that would also leverage as a deterrent for the prisoners.  Music would also play as a score during flogging of prisoners or during executions in these camps.  Any kind of musical performance for these prisoners was an extreme contrast to the despairing and depressing situation they were going thru, clearly failing Zubin Mehtas ‘music soothes’ claim in such situations. There were also some songs that had been crafted by the Nazi SS especially for an effect on prisoners like the anti-Semitic “Judenlied” (Jews Song) composed by a prisoner in Buchenwald, “For hundreds of years we cheated the people, / no swindle was too outrageous / we wangled, we lied, we cheated, we marked / whatever the currency, the crown or the mark.”  

In many other camps like ‘the Dachau camp’ music was forcibly played loud via Gramophones or Radio, to ‘re-educate’ or torture prisoners. Does this ‘re-educate’ ring a ‘Sadhbhavna’ bell in you?

In extermination camps like those of Birkenau, music was used to ‘select’ prisoners for death. Orchestras was summoned and played for newly arriving prisoners who would not have imagined this to be a death trap walking them to the gas chambers.  “(Prisoners) were driven out of the cattle trucks and lined up. … During this process a band, made up of the best musicians from among the prisoners who were already there, played ….folk music, depending on where the new prisoners were from. … some were forced to march into the camp while the rest were driven into the crematorium.” Erika Rothschild
Did those Nazi Germans ever claim that ‘Music knows no boundaries’ and ‘This music is for peace’?

If this event really was ‘Ehsaas – e – Kashmir’ it would have attempted to reach to the real Kashmir beyond the secured and out of bounds walls of Shalimar. What is ‘Kashmiri’ in the ‘Ehsaas’ that plucks invitations based on political convenience and alignments from India, where common Kashmirs will even be denied any existence? Kashmir for these events exists as a political postcard, where an oppressive autocracy rules and commoners as humans don't exist.

From those days of Gutenberg to today’s Srinagar, nothing has changed; neither the forcible assembly of alien music nor the bolted doors of our militarized concentration camps, who not only try to cage our bodies and corpses but also our thoughts. 

Willkommen im Konzentrationslager von Kaschmir ! 

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