The plan to oppose Zubin Mehta’s concert with another concert in Srinagar is significant. It is a moment of departure in Kashmir.
It isn’t the fact of the opposition to Zubin Mehta’s concert in Srinagar — organised by the German embassy with active support of the government — but the narrative of the Kashmiri opposition that has bewildered people outside Kashmir. If angry calls for disruption and bans had determined the Kashmiri response to this grand concert or the disapproval was laced with theological debates on music, it would have fit into the black and white of the standard Kashmir narrative that has been consistently sold to obfuscate the truth. This is exactly why the picture of Kashmir’s so-called rage boy instantly trended across the world. He had a long beard, an angry face and his picture was taken when he was shouting. This fit the bill and superimposed an image of Kashmir that helps avoid a debate on the real political issue confronting its people.
Thus, when a music programme to represent the haqeeqat (reality) of Kashmir was planned to confront not the music of a noted maestro, but the problematic political message it sends and the false image about the ground reality in Kashmir it transmits, it was a first. For the first time, the real reason for the opposition isn’t easily sidestepped.
Why is there opposition to Zubin Mehta’s concert? The German ambassador Michael Steiner has insisted that this event is “apolitical”, it’s a “concert for the people of Kashmir” and a “wonderful cultural tribute to Kashmir and its warm hearted and hospitable people”. Through this concert, he says, “we want to reach the hearts of Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement”.
How is this concert apolitical? A foreign government plans a music show in a highly fortified garden where several thousand soldiers encircle it, disallowing any normal movement of the residents, and invites a select gathering from among what Jean Paul Sartre calls the white-washed natives. These won’t be ordinary Kashmiris who had lined up to get a ticket for the concert because they love music, but people privileged enough to travel anywhere in the world to watch a Zubin Mehta concert. How is it a concert for the people of Kashmir when it is not open to the “warm hearted and hospitable” people of Kashmir? What is the message of hope and encouragement in it