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Zubin Mehta’s Concert for Kashmir: first pictures

zubin mehta kashmir2


Zubin Mehta last night conducted the Bavarian State Orchestra in the Shalimar Bagh, part of the historical Mughal Gardens of Srinagar. Some  2,000 guests heard Beethoven’s Leonore III Overture, Haydn’s trumpet concerto (soloist: Andreas Öttl), Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (Julian Rachlin) and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The event was described as a peace concert. Not far away, police and militants exchanged grenade and small-arms fire. Several deaths are reported.

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“I’ve waited my whole life for this moment,” said Mehta in a short speech before the concert. The performance opened with a work by Kashmir composer Abhey Sopori played by 15 musicians with members of the Bavarian State Orchestra. You can watch video of Zubin’s opening rrmarks and the Kashmiri work here.


zubin mehta kashmir

photos (c) Christine Schneider/Bavarian State Orchestra

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  1. Neil van der Linden says:

    It is sad that a ‘peace concert’ resulted in deaths. While probably the German embassy and Zubin Mehta initiated this with the best intentions, best intentions are not a guarantee that the project might not have such a good idea.
    The BBC website has a longer report on this, in which a bit of why this project was sensitive and may not have been such a good idea is described too.
    If I were Zubin Mehta and the German ambassador, I now would have had second thoughts about this moment they waited for all their lives. It cost people lives, and if one studies the history of Kasmir it is clear that this is not only fanatism, rather something we in the West fail or refuse to understand.

    • quite true. Germany has probably lost the goodwill it enjoyed in Kashmir. Kashmiris who loved German music and German literary classics a lot may not like them so much now for the simple reason that their political sensitivities were not heeded to in case of a show which was held in their name but not for them. invitees were all outsiders and few local rulers.

  2. Neil van der Linden says:

    And the fact that the objections some if not many in Kashmir have against such Indian enterprises are not very well understood or ignored in the West is proven by the fact that also in this blog no word is spent on that. A bad day in your career, Mr Mehta! And Germany in particular has a history of artists and others who thought that art stands above politics.

  3. Great effort by zubin mehta and bavarian orchestra. Many great NRI’s feel patriotic, but few spend time, energy, money to show it.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Great effort? The enterprise more and more emerges as an at its best ill-advised enterprise.
      - Several people died in clashes related to the event, and, Norman, sensivities in Kashmir run higher than a conflict with some ‘separatists’ and ‘militants’.
      - The German ambassador ignored a very polite plea by a group of certainly non-militant intellectuals to take their plea into consideration for paying attention to the feelings of a large majority of Kashmiris who see India as an occupier.
      - What was proposed as a peace concert for the people turned out to be a concert for invitees only from mostly elites, including India’s elites, seen in Kashmir as the occupiers.
      - Orchestra members say they feel betrayed by the ambassador and Mehta for all this. And one cannot say that the organisers and performers do not have any responsibility for this. If they could not have foreseen any of this they are doing their jobs very badly.

      ‘The people stay outside’

      ‘Not a bit of peace’

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      P U L S E
      Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one

      Of Occupation, Resistance and Music: An Appeal

      September 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

      “Zubin Mehta, Indian Army, and Kashmir” by Mir Suhail Qadiri

      September 2, 2013
      The People of Germany
      (Political Representatives, Civil Society, Artists, Activists and Citizens)

      Of Occupation, Resistance and Music: An Appeal

      1. On 22 August 2013, the German Embassy, New Delhi, issued a press release that Zubin Mehta would be conducting an orchestra on 7 September 2013, at the Mughal Garden, Shalimar Bagh, in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. The press release stated that the concert was “a wonderful cultural tribute to Kashmir,” and intended “to reach the hearts of the Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement.” ”The ‘Kashmir Concert’ is part of a broader engagement,” it further stated.
      2. On 26 August 2013, civil society members of Jammu and Kashmir – from lawyers and businessmen to poets and scholars – registered a strong protest against the proposed concert. To date, the German Embassy has failed to respond – privately or publicly – to this letter of protest. Faced with this unforeseen and complete apathy from the German embassy, we believe it is incumbent upon us to reach out to the people of Germany to express our serious concerns with a concert that seeks not to entertain, but to subtly control the political message from Jammu and Kashmir, i.e. manipulate it into a message of “peace” and “normalcy” that ignores ground realities. For example, even as we write this appeal, Jammu and Kashmir Police are conducting door to door searches and identification exercises at the homes of the residents in and around the Shalimar neighborhood, the proposed venue of the concert. Surely this exposes the rot at the core of the much-touted “peace” and “normalcy.”
      3. The people of Jammu and Kashmir take immense pride in our rich history of resisting oppression. We also have historically cultivated a sublime tradition in, and love for, music. Music – which appeals to the higher truths of love, justice, dignity, and peace; which genuinely acknowledges the long-suffering, yet bravely resisting, Kashmiris; and which is performed for the actual public – is wholeheartedly welcome.4. However, legitimizing an occupation via a musical concert is completely unacceptable. Art as propaganda, as abundantly documented in history, is put to horrific use across the world. We are sure you will understand that we cannot welcome anything even remotely analogous in Jammu and Kashmir. In a state of affairs where the poets and musicians of Jammu and Kashmir, such as Ghulam Nabi Sheikh, well-known Kashmiri national singer, Inayatullah Bhat, a guitar/harmonium player, and Ali Mohammad Shahbaz, a poet from Handwara, have themselves been victims of the violence of the Indian State, it is but obvious that there needs to be a political understanding of the uses and abuses of art. Given this sordid context, which cannot be naïvely wished away, we must then ask this crucial question of the people of Germany, and the world citizenry at large: Should we, as people of conscience, support art which not only does not highlight the sufferings of an oppressed people, leave alone which offers balm to its pain, but instead which, through its setting within the particular landscape of power, actively serves to silence and obfuscate our appeals to the rest of humanity, and thus furthers oppression?
      5. Sadly, the occupation will be amply reflected in the demographics of the audience of the proposed concert – the list of “invitees only” is bound to be restricted to the members of the apparatuses of the Occupying State: from perpetrators of crimes, as heinous as murder, rape, and torture, to the local collaborators of the State and perhaps some powerless, vulnerable and compliant few.
      6. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been under Indian occupation for 66 years. Sixty-six years of State brutality and absolute impunity. Over the last 23 years, 8000+ disappeared, 70,000 killed, 7000+ unidentified, unmarked and mass graves. Countless cases of torture and rape. There have been no effective prosecutions of the perpetrators to date. Therefore, absolute impunity. How does the Indian State mask this reality of Jammu and Kashmir? A crucial feature of this most dense military occupation has been the constant endeavour to forcibly control the local, regional and international narratives on Jammu and Kashmir. From criminalizing popular dissent and resistance as “agitational terrorism,” “anti-national,” or “unpopular,” to the more recent obsession with portraying “normalcy” and “peace,” the Indian State seeks to obscure truth and forcibly control the destiny of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Since 1947, the Indian State has sought to use art, sports, cinema and culture to camouflage the truth about Jammu and Kashmir. The scheduled Zubin Mehta concert is yet another attempt to control the narrative. It is an instrument to grant a veneer of “normalcy” and “peace” to the most militarized occupation on the planet.
      7. Given the above context, it is most unfortunate that the German Embassy should seek to collaborate, perhaps unwittingly, with the Indian State in Kashmir, recognized as an international dispute by the United Nations and the international community, without any sensitivity to the aspirations of the people, or the dire issues faced by them, or the machinations of the Indian State. It is thus terribly infelicitous that the German Embassy lends itself to be party to an event that very obviously forms a part of the ongoing Indian attempt to control the world view on the unresolved dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
      8. The German Embassy must be made sensitive to the fact that the people of Jammu and Kashmir do want peace and normalcy, though not as hollow punch lines of State craft, but as real concepts that flow from, and are necessarily linked to, ideas of justice, dignity, freedom and political choice.
      9. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have consistently appealed to the international community. To question the Indian State. To lobby with the Indian State. To pressurize the Indian State. Most importantly, to take the side of truth and justice. In 2008, the European Parliament passed a resolution to do just that. The resolution recognized the shocking discovery of thousands of unidentified graves, condemned human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, urged legislative reform that would aid investigations and prosecutions of crimes, urged the Indian State to ensure independent and impartial investigations of mass graves, and called on the European Commission to offer financial and technical support to the Indian Government in this regard.
      10. The German people must take serious issue with the fact that the Indian State has disregarded this resolution of the European Parliament. Rather than seek assistance from the international community, there is an absolute refusal to acknowledge State responsibility for the extremely grave issues of enforced disappearances, myriad other human rights violations, and more than 7000 unidentified graves. The message from the Indian State has been clear and consistent: there will be no investigations into the graves. Nonetheless, the Indian State is ironically eager to collaborate on projects of convenience, which further its nefarious agendas, such as this concert in Kashmir.
      11. The international community, including the German Government, and most importantly, the German people, must not allow themselves to be party to activities that seek to further legitimize the Indian occupation in Jammu and Kashmir. The Nuremberg principles clearly established that being complicit in crime is to commit crime under international law. There is no place for silence. There is no place for passive collaboration that is unmindful of the real issues that face an oppressed people. An occupation cannot be ignored or conveniently forgotten. An emerging norm of international law, Responsibility to Protect, speaks to the ideal of peoples and Governments everywhere, concerned for people anywhere.
      12. Zubin Mehta’s proposed performance in Jammu and Kashmir, though a privilege, cannot be deployed to further an occupying State’s military and political agenda. Therefore, we submit that it is incumbent upon the people of Germany to put pressure on the German Embassy i) to immediately recognize the reality, the horrifying context, within which this proposed concert is to take place, ii) to issue a statement that accepts the disputed nature of Jammu & Kashmir and recognizes the legitimate political and legal struggles of its anguished people. Crucially, the German people must put pressure on the German Embassy to forthwith withdraw its support from the concert.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      And a group of intellectuals who were not opposed to the concert by itself were quoted thus: ‘The letter written to the German Ambassador by some enlightened members of our civil society invokes the disputed political status of Jammu and Kashmir as the reason for opposing the concert. Their asking the German Embassy to “issue a statement accepting the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir, and recognizing the pain and legitimate political and legal struggle of its people” is far fetched, if not meaningless. After rightly bringing to note the context for the concert, the letter ends in a rather servile manner: “A Zubin Mehta performance in Jammu and Kashmir, though a privilege, cannot be used to further an occupying State’s narrative”. ‘
      The attitude of the German embassy can mostly be described as hoping that between this criticism and the concert the problem would go away by itself. But it didn’t. Of course.

  4. Do read this delightful review of the concert:-

    The audience was pathetic, apparently.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Thanks although I did not realise that India apparently has that much (self-)censorship as to completely omit anything about the considerations of many Kashmiri who were not happy with the setup of the concert.
      And although apparently the ambassador somewhat pathetically exclaimed that ‘this concert is for you Kashmiri’s’ one of the problems of the concert became obvious from the boredom and narrowness of the invited elite audience as noticed by the critic.

      I quote: ‘Though the music was first-rate, the audience seemed apathetic. It can’t be said for everyone but many yawned and chattered frivolously as the concert went on. Compare this with the BBC Proms, an annual British classical music festival, where thousands gather inside the Royal Albert Hall in London and listen to every single note with rapt attention and deafening silence.

      In a letter addressed to the Kashmiris, the German ambassador said “this concert is for you, the Kashmiris”. If that were the case, special provisions should have been made for ‘real’ Kashmiris to enjoy the concert live. But it was not for them. It was for the men dressed in elegant suites and women saddled with expensive jewellery, who found it worth their while to fiddle with their phones oblivious to the beauty unfolding in the background.’
      But the biggest failure of the article is paying no attention to any of the objections in the region. But he is an Indian. But then again I did not know that the Indian press was so inclined to (self-)censorship, apparently. It is an insult in fact.

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