Why has Zubin Mehta concert become a raging controversy in Kashmir?

August 31, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Zubin Mehta OrchestraSrinagar, August 29, 2013: It’s a bizarre case of a concert becoming controversial in a land known for poets, singers and musicians for ages. But, those opposing the Sept 7 concert here of the Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by the India-born and world-renowned Zubin Mehta believe they have valid reasons to do so.

German ambassador to India Michael Steiner announced that the concert would be held in the famous Shalimar Garden on the banks of the Dal Lake. And, for a concert of this standing, Kashmir was expected to host a national and international audience of music lovers.

Normally, anybody who loves music or has even a remote sense of aesthetic appreciation would like to attend the concert for the sheer fame of the person conducting it.

Composes like Beethoven, Hayden and Tchaikovsky are not unheard of in Kashmir, although Western classical music definitely doesn’t have many followers here.

“But, as world-famous sitar maestro Ravi Shankar once said, music has no language. It catches your imagination and holds you spellbound whether or not you understand the finer points”, said a local singer/musician who did not want to be named for obvious reasons.

Kashmiri separatist leaders as also the local Grand Mufti and civil society members have opposed the Zubin Mehta concert for political reasons. The first statement against the concert came on expected lines from hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who said an international event like this would tends to give legitimacy to Indian rule in Kashmir.

Geelani also referred to an international cricket match in Kashmir between India and West Indies in 1983 when some locals stormed the field and had dug up the pitch to stop the match.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chairman of the moderate separatist Hurriyat group, said in his statement that instead of spending huge sums of money on holding the concert, the German ambassador would do better by trying to help education, healthcare and the other needs of the Kashmiri people.

Grand Mufti Basher-ud-Din, who had previously hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons for opposing an all-girls’ music band, said holding the Zubin Mehta concert in a “disputed land would convey a wrong signal internationally…(that) Kashmiris have enough prosperity and leisure to attend an event like this”.

Interestingly, the Grand Mufti said he had initially decided not to comment on the event, but had been approached by social and religious groups to speak on the issue as a religious head.

Civil society members said in a statement: “Germany must accept the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir and recognise the pain and legitimate political and legal struggle of its people.”

Despite the opposition to the event, sources in the state government said it has been decided to hold the event anyway.

“Not holding the event after opposition from separatists would send out a disturbing signal. Well, the separatists would not want any cultural activity to be held in Kashmir as that is not part of their agenda”, said a senior ruling National Conference leader here.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has so far maintained a discreet silence on the opposition to the concert.

Known otherwise for posting quick comments on his widely-followed Twitter site on separatist campaigns, Abdullah has steered clear of getting involved in a war of attrition with the separatists over the event.

Well, not many people believe Kashmir would explode in some sort of a violent frenzy if a musician conducts his orchestra in Kashmir. Nor does anybody believe that holding the concert would change the ground realities here.

– ians

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