“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.
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
30. Ather Zia – Academician
31. Uzma Falak – Student / Poet