Zubin Mehta’s recently held concert in the Shalimar Gardens of Srinagar has created a problematically dichotomous discourse over Kashmir and Kashmiris as though they are easily divided into the elites, enjoying the Ehsaas of Kashmir in luxury, while the aam admi of Kashmir angrily retaliates by organizing another concert called the Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir. While Ehsaas supposedly has an invitation-only crowd, Haqeeqat is open to everyone.
It is easy to see who the good guys are (Haqeeqat) and who the bad guys are (Ehsaas).
The dichotomy is clear— to be elite is to go to Ehsaas and to be aam is to go to Haqeeqat. We disparage the insensitivity of the elite fractions at enjoying Mehta’s concert at the expense of the aam admi in Kashmir, even as we conduct these discussions in intrinsically elite forum (Outlook, Livemint, DNA), blithely forgetting our own elite status which allows for this. Ironically, while positing the elite who attended and organized the concert in Kashmir as obviously removed from concerns of the aam admi (by fact of being CM, by fact of being on a guest list etc), we have the luxury of forgetting our own elite status as we claim to speak for the “people” of Kashmir.
Yet, amongst elites there are differences— you can be a conscientious elite who is sensitive to the plight of the “people.” There can also be oblivious elites— protected from dust, dirt, or poverty in their air conditioned, or heated, new Mercedes. While the organizers and attendees of Ehsaas were elite, the organizers of Haqeeqat were no less so: one of them is a “noted pediatrician”, for example. In positing Haqeeqat as counter to Ehsaas is the battle, such as it is, between elite and non-elite or rather between different factions of already very privileged groups? It’s unclear.
But when we write about the “people” of Kashmir, can we, from our incredibly privileged vantage points, afford them the same courtesy we assume for ourselves? Even while being elite, many of us think of ourselves as sympathetic to the plights of the aam admi, including in these discussions about Mehta’s concert. And, please, let’s not fool ourselves, most of us reading and writing in these venues are not quite aam admi.
But can we think of the aam admi as anything other than one big mass?
Can we try to see the nuance of “aam admi” that we afford ourselves? That is can we acknowledge that Kashmiris, aam or not, differ widely amongst themselves without a necessary dichotomy between elite (state and power-brokers) and non-elite (everyone else). Perhaps to be aam is to be angry at the way in which Ehsaas was handled, or perhaps it is to still be proud that a world-renowned artist flocked to praise your beautiful region. Maybe it is to be tired of having people supposedly give voice to you, or maybe it is to appreciate that even those who may be far removed from you take a deep interest in the quality of your life and opportunities.
In reducing people to bald categories— Ehsaas and Haqeeqat, as is being done in media discussions in this case— we are perhaps replicating in print what happens in real life: where some (whether good or bad elites) speak for many (the teeming mass of aam admi).
Aliya Hamid Rao is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, currently based in Philadelphia.
What is ehsaas and haqeeqat? Politicians want to do away with any vestige of perception. There is no need for perception when the caste system is to be abolished, and the educated don't bathe in the Ganga, for hygene reasons, but don't care that corpses are given Ganga Jal. I mean, what is the sense of any civic sensibility? I must confess that I thought I was responding to Ms. Piyali Bhattacharya. It seems, we do use cologne on ourselves, but perhaps what the term Hindu means will be apparent, when a person considers that he is putting Ganga Jal into the mouth of his father. Even when he considers his father is a dead body. Please give all politicians the correct perspective. No one should be a politician, until people like Mr. Pilot, and Mr. Scindia tell the Indian, who is reticent, about life, as to what parliament stands for.
Sorry Ms. Rao, but the discussion in the Outlook forum is not about Ehsaas versus Haqeeqat. It is not an elitist versus aam aadmi debate nor even about western music versus oriental music. Irrespective of whether Zubin Mehta performed in Kashmir or not, the problematic issue of Kashmir will remain as intractable as ever. At best, this non-event is an interesting diversion and a god-send for the media which reaps TRP dividends by sensationalising issues. I do not know how many Kashmiris (other than the elites) had heard of Zubin Mehta prior to this totally needless brouhaha but I am sure that the numbers will be miniscule.
It was about Ms. Bhattacharya's self-righteous anger about the presence of security forces surveying every square inch of Kashmir with "camo-clad" eyes. A person who is unaware of the ground realities of Kashmir lacks the credentials to write opinion pieces in a national newsmagazine like Outlook.
Come to think of it, maybe Outlook is the only national newsmagazine which gives space to such people.
Let us be a little circumspect. The Saraswati is supposed to be a mythical river that yet runs underground, but it is supposed to be established that what is called the 'Hindu' religion, began on the banks of the Saraswati. The language that was spoken was Prakrit, and it had no script. Prakrit became a language that is today unknown. The Ganga was seen to be preserved, and many efforts were made to preserve the civilization that was later to spread. What if the Ganga dries up, and the rest follows?
All this Ehsas vs. Haqeqat is a lot of bull. It has nothing to do with elite vs. mango man either. Any live event for that matter will have some inclusions and some exclusions.I am sure even among the rich , connected and powerful there would be some who did not get invited for the Ehsas concert and are smarting from the exclusion. I can also shoot a dozen holes in haqeqat even without trying. Aliya has already pointed how one organiser at least is a know physician. I can also point out that the Haqeqat had no Ehsas for 500,000 Hindu's that are absent from kashmir because they got ethnically cleansed ! Talk about aam admi ! Anyway let us not even go there.
The simple fact is that Kashmir has a very strong and powerful group who would prefer to keep the situation on the boil on a continuous basis.I give some reasons but that'll be a long discourse. So this is the group that did not like the idea that a concert of this nature could take place in Srinagar. They had to flex muscle otherwise it would appear that things are normal. This group is far from being aam aadmi and consists of very powerful professionals, government servants ,clergy and businessmen. Counter concert was nothing but a tactic in their separatist movement. That is the haqeqat of Haqeqat.
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