A Zubin Mehta concert in Kashmir, “though a privilege, cannot be used to further India’s Kashmir narrative”—that’s the common refrain among prominent civil society members here. They were reacting to news of the master conductor’s scheduled performance in Srinagar’s Shalimar Bagh Mughal Gardens, on the banks of the Dal lake, on September 7.
Zubin brings with him one of the best orchestras of the world, the Bavarian State Orchestra from Munich, and as he told Outlook in an exclusive interview last week, will perform Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Haydn before an audience of 1,500 people. The event, ‘Ehsas-e-Kashmir’ (Feelings of Kashmir), sponsored by the German embassy in India, will be watched live in over 50 nations. German ambassador Michael Steiner calls it a “wonderful cultural tribute to Kashmir and its warm-hearted people. We want to reach the hearts of the Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement”. He says the concert is apolitical.
However, the event is already mired in politics, and its most vocal opponents—apart from the habitual separatist groups and a self-styled grand mufti—have been from the educated Kashmiri elite. Their reasoning is that it amounts to legitimising Indian rule in Kashmir via a concert and that the event itself is an attempt to portray “normalcy” to the West.
Many are questioning the concert for entirely different reasons. Says Kashmir’s ex-tourism director-general M. Ashraf, “Zubin Mehta will be playing Beethoven in Shalimar on the banks of the dying Dal. It’s a brilliant idea by our so-called rulers, get Beethoven to sound the death knell of a Dal plagued by pollution.”
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat’s moderate faction, says the funds would have been better spent on a “Kashmir-German friendship hospital” or on education. “Germany has to understand that Kashmir is an active conflict zone,” he says. The hardline Jamaat-e-Islami chose to bring in Mehta’s Israeli connection (he is music-director-for-life of the Israel Philharmonic) and the inevitable “massacre of Palestinians”.
The Omar Abdullah government’s failure to clear the air spiced up the story. Top state functionaries distanced themselves from the event. Tourism director Talat Parvez, whose department is event partner, even begged off saying “the German embassy is doing everything, right from sending invitations to other arrangements. We aren’t in the loop”.
Amid this cacophony are also some feeble voices in favour of the concert. Says ex-tourism director Saleem Beg, “Zubin and his brother are doing great work with Palestinian children in the occupied territories of Israel. We hope it (the concert) will present the feelings of Kashmir through the medium of music. “How is a Zubin Mehta concert a challenge to the separatist leadership?” asks youngster Tawqeer Hussain. German Carin Jodha Fischer, an activist involved in village development projects here for many years, says “it’s a non-political cultural event”. But then can anything remain non-political in the Valley?
I refer to the story about the controversy surrounding conductor Zubin Mehta’s concert in Kashmir (Batons Not Allowed, Sep 9). Kashmiris love, eat, pray and marry. They sing and play musical instruments. They drive cars made in India, go to colleges funded by UGC, conduct business, throw parties, visit restaurants, and use the BSNL network to go online and call each other. They watch Indian TV all day, listen to Bollywood songs and watch Bollywood movies. None of these ‘legitimises Indian rule in Kashmir’. They should understand that life goes on even as political questions remain. They won’t betray their cause, whatever it may be, if some enjoy the concert. However, the main reason for objecting to Zubin Mehta’s concert is his long association with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Kashmiri's love , eat, pray and marry. They sing and play musical instruments. They travel on cars made in India, go to school and universities funded by UGC. Conduct business, throw parties, visit restaurants, call each other and go online using BSNL network. They watch all the Indian TV channels everyday and listen to the Indian radio. They watch Indian movies too. None of this is a problem, none of this "legitimises Indian rule in kashmir" ! Life is going on even when the political questions remain. Sky is not going to fall if some of them enjoy this concert. It really is a life time opportunity! The real reason behind objecting to Zubin's concert is his association with Israel Philharmonic. The objection is nothing but crude Islamic fundamentalism in action.
Both sides should refrain from politicizing the event. Listening to the Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta will be a treat. I have attended performances conducted by Zubin Mehta of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Those experiences are unforgettable.
"The Srinagar concert is totally on invitee basis, hence defeats the very purpose of it,” a youth wrote on Facebook."
This much I agree with. Why are the Germans getting into the very South Asian/Indian VVIP syndrome. I am sure the rationale is security but the whole point of "Beautful music can bring some peace in Kashmir" of the conductor is lost since only a handul of "beautiful people" will listen to the beautiful music in the beauty of Shalimar Gardens just like the feudals of yore ... and their lives are beautiful even in Kashmir or the various "pads" they have in India/London/New York.
I tend to agree with Ashutosh Kaul (of Toronto) that this more about Mr. Mehta's Israeli connection.
The Kashmiris opposing the concert, are utter fanatics and demagogues. But then, we shouldn't be surpised. A Moslem majority state within India, is going to have more than its share of anti-Hindu, anti-secular and anti-Indian zealots, as well as conspiracy theorists.
There should have been a music concert to do with Indian Classical. Apparently, in Kashmir, western classical music is heard in times that are infrequent, if at all, and if so, far between. I haven't heard a lot of classical music, either western, or eastern, myself for some time.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT