Legitimizing A Military Occupation With Music: Zubin Mehta in Kashmir

August 26, 2013 § 6 Comments

"Facing the Music!" by Suhail Hassan Naqshbandi

“Facing the Music!”

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26 August 2013

To
Ambassador Michael Steiner,
German Embassy,
New Delhi, India.

Subject: URGENT Protest Letter to German Embassy on scheduled Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on 7 September 2013

1. On 22 August 2013, a press release was issued by the German Embassy that Zubin Mehta would be conducting an orchestra on 7 September 2013 at Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

2. The press release quoted you as stating that the concert was for the people of Jammu and Kashmir by way of a cultural tribute. The press release also reads that the concert was intended to give a message of hope and encouragement to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The concert, said to be a part of a “broader engagement” is being organized by the German Embassy and supported by the “competent authorities both at Central as well as at Union State level.” The costs of the concert are covered by “benevolent sponsors mainly from the business world in India and Germany, as well as “Incredible India” and the German Foreign Office”.

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, and yet bravely resisting, Kashmiris; and which is performed for the actual public – is wholeheartedly welcomed. However, legitimizing an occupation via a musical concert is completely unacceptable. Art as propaganda, as abundantly documented, was put to horrific use in Nazi Germany. We are sure you will understand that we cannot welcome anything even remotely analogous in Jammu and Kashmir. 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.

4. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, for whom this concert is purportedly meant, have been subject to an occupation by the Indian State for the last 66 years. These 66 years have exposed the people to various shades and faces of the Indian occupation. But, two features have been consistent. First, State brutality and absolute impunity. The institutional culture of moral, political and juridical impunity has resulted in, by some estimates [as of 2013], enforced and involuntary disappearance of at least 8000 persons besides more than 70,000 killings, countless cases of torture, rape, molestation and disclosures of over 7000 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves. There have been no effective prosecutions of the perpetrators to date. Therefore, absolute impunity.

5. The second consistent feature of the Indian State has been its constant endeavour to forcibly control the public, regional and international narrative on Jammu and Kashmir. From criminalizing the popular dissent and resistance as “terrorism,” “anti-national,” or “unpopular,” to the more recent obsession with portraying “normalcy” and “peace,” the Indian State seeks to obfuscate the 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 real truth about Jammu and Kashmir. The scheduled Zubin Mehta concert is yet another attempt to control the narrative. It is an attempt to portray “normalcy” and “peace” to the international community and other stakeholders.

6. In this 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 issues faced, or the machinations of the Indian State. It is unfortunate 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 manner in which the world views the unresolved dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.

7. The German Embassy must be sensitive to the fact that the people of Jammu and Kashmir want peace and normalcy — 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.

8. The German Embassy must take serious issue with the fact that the Indian State seeks to disregard a European Parliament resolution, of July 2008, which urged the Government of India to hold an investigation into the alleged mass/unidentified graves in Kashmir, and called upon the European Commission to offer financial and technical assistance to the Government of India for this purpose. But, at the same time, the Indian State is eager to collaborate on convenient projects, such as a concert in Kashmir.

9. The international community, including the German Government, must not allow itself to be party to activities that seek to further legitimize the Indian occupation in Jammu and Kashmir. The Nuremberg principles clearly established that to be complicit in crime is to commit crime under international law. There is no place for silence. There is no place for passive collaboration that seeks to be unmindful of the real issues that face a people. An occupation cannot be ignored or conveniently forgotten.

10. A Zubin Mehta performance in Jammu and Kashmir, though a privilege, cannot be used to further an occupying State’s narrative. Therefore, it is incumbent on the German Embassy to immediately recognize the reality within which this concert is taking place. The German Embassy must issue a statement accepting the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir, and recognizing the pain and legitimate political and legal struggle of its people.

Regards,

Names of the Signatories:
1. Dr. Altaf Hussain – Author, Pediatrician
2. Adv. Parvez Imroz – Human Rights Defender, President – Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
3. Zareef Ahmed Zareef – Poet, Civil Society Activist
4. Mohammad Anwar Ashai – Civil Society Activist, Businessman
5. Abdul Majid Zargar – Columnist, Chartered Accountant
6. Bashir Ahmed Dar – Civil Society Activist, former Secretary, Department of Education
7. Zahid Ghulam Mohammad – Columnist, Author
8. Dr. Javid Iqbal – Columnist, Physician
9. Hilal Mir – Journalist
10. Najeeb Mubarki – Journalist
11. Huma Dar – Academician
12. Mohammad Junaid – Academician
13. Wajahat Ahmed – Academician
14. Zahir-ud-Din – Author and Journalist
15. Abir Bazaz – Academician
16. Arif Ayaz Parrey – Writer
17. Suhail Masoodi – Academician
18. Fayaz Ahmed Dar – Researcher, Civil Society Activist
19. Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg – Civil Society Activist
20. Samreen Mushtaq – Social Worker
21. Uzaifa Basu – Social Worker
22. Ifrah Mushtaq – Social Worker
23. Imran Majid – Human Rights Defender
24. Salman Bhat – Human Rights Defender
25. Uzma Qureshi – Social Worker
26. Parvaiz Ahmed Matta – Human Rights Defender
27. Khurram Parvez – Human Rights Defender
28. Shakeel Qalandar – Civil Society Activist / Member, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies
29. Sajad Hussain, Social Activist

Kashmiri Musicians, c. 1890.  Source: Columbia University Archives

Kashmiri Musicians, c. 1890. Source: Columbia University Archives

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