Beyond the Zubin Mehta concert
Viewpoint: How can a heavily sanitized musical concert, with majority of state actors in attendance, help spread peace in Kashmir?
Majid Maqbool Srinagar
Zubin Mehta is slated to conduct Bavarian State Orchestra on September 7 in Shalimar Gardens on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir. Beethoven, Hadyn and Tchaikovsky are on the menu. Right from the day of its announcement, we have been told by the conductor and the organisers, the German embassy in India, that the concert is “apolitical”, meant to spread “peace” and “bring Hindus and Muslims together, to have one-and-a-half hours of inner peace and spirituality” in Kashmir as if the Kashmiris had been waiting for Zubin Mehta to be airdropped in this Mughal-era garden for resurrecting a presumably dead secular tradition in Kashmir.
That Congress Member of Parliament Saifuddin Soz and his son Salman Soz, a fledgling politician, did the legwork for the concert is supposed to be part of the event’s apolitical nature.
We have also been told about the immensity of the event. In his recent interview to The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time from Sao Paolo, Brazil, Zubin Mehta says: “I convinced the orchestra in Munich to give up part of their holidays, to decrease their fee. Lufthansa was very generous in giving us extremely low fares, so everything came together. My friends from Bombay helped a lot. It’s been an incredible combined and tremendous effort from all parties, central to it all being the German Embassy in Delhi and Mr. Steiner the German ambassador.” – Ah, should we be thankful then or overwhelmed by this generosity of everyone involved! And we're told how big and expensive musical instruments will be transported all the way from Germany to strike the right peace-inducing chords for the government officials, police and military generals who will attend the orchestra that day.
The concert, however, has struck all the wrong chords for the people who will be facing the music of increased ‘security arrangements’ that will be kept in place for the event. So far the interviews and statements of the German ambassador and Zubin Mehta, instead of clearing doubts, have only raised more questions about the intentions of holding such a mega concert in Kashmir. People will be kept away from the concert as government officials, police, army and CRPF officials will luxuriate, along with their families, in the front rows of the garden reserved for them. Outside, the roads leading to the venue will be blocked and concertina wires and road blockades put up in the middle of the roads by police and CRPF troops.