Of Occupation, Resistance and Music: An Appeal

We submit that it is incumbent upon the people of Germany to put pressure on the German Embassy to immediately recognize the reality, the horrifying context, within which this proposed concert is to take place, issue a statement that accepts the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir, and recognizes the pain and legitimate political and legal struggle of its people. Crucially, pressure must be put on the German Embassy to withdraw its support to the concert.

"Zubin Mehta, Indian Army, and Kashmir" by Mir Suhail Qadiri
“Zubin Mehta, Indian Army, and Kashmir” by Mir Suhail Qadiri
September 2, 2013
To                                                                                                       
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 oppressionContinue reading “Of Occupation, Resistance and Music: An Appeal”

Legitimizing A Military Occupation With Music: Zubin Mehta in Kashmir

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.

"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. Continue reading “Legitimizing A Military Occupation With Music: Zubin Mehta in Kashmir”

Afghanistan: The Great Game

This is part one of a two party documentary about the history of imperial intervention, military and diplomatic, in Afghanistan. It is hosted by Rory Stewart, one of the very few western commentators who are knowledgeable about the region and have empathy for its people. I would also encourage viewers to read Stewart’s superb book The Places In Between.

#trashthestache: an unabashedly—but deservedly—fawning review of The Imperial Messenger

by Steve Marlowe

This is an excerpt from a review, published at Chapati Mystery, of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. Click here to read the review at CM.

More sophisticated readers of the New York Times’ editorial pages have, for years, fumed at Thomas Friedman’s inane musings. Even less sophisticated readers, some of which write book reviews and essays for online magazines named after mysterious flatbreads, have bristled at Friedman’s claims, prose and weak reasoning.

There are times, in fact, that one might suspect the Times’ Editorial Board is putting Friedman over on the public as some sort of Onion-style goof, a la Jackie Harvey.

Some readers have an automatic, visceral dislike of his face, alone: the suburban-mall Glamour-Shots photograph accompanying his crimes against logic calls for snarky comment; in it, he appears smug, self-satisfied and eager to be taken as the thinker of deep thoughts that, in The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, Belen Fernandez proves he is not.

Continue reading “#trashthestache: an unabashedly—but deservedly—fawning review of The Imperial Messenger”

On the ‘Precision’ of Language: Why the Term ‘Genocide’ is So Wrong, or Who Can Use the Term

This essay is a response to the emerging discussions over the ‘appropriateness’ of the use of the word ‘genocide’ in the context of the Indian military occupation in Kashmir on PulseMedia and elsewhere on Facebook.

by Mohamad Junaid

[This essay is a response to the emerging discussions over the ‘appropriateness’ of the use of the word ‘genocide’ in the context of the Indian military occupation in Kashmir on PulseMedia and elsewhere on Facebook.]

Homage to Picasso's Guernica (HD 2002)
Homage to Picasso's Guernica (HD 2002)

But, which language? Which one language expresses all joyous, exhilarating, or traumatic experiences?

When Kashmiris are told to be precise in their language there are largely two positions involved: one, a sympathetic (if inadequate and self-censorious) one, which suggests that following ‘the convention’ will allow for legalistic interpretation and some form of retributive or ‘restorative’ justice. Often such a position traps itself in legal discourse, and by seeking to bottle people’s experiences into tight categories, fetishizes those categories, and in the end reduces the depth of traumatic experiences to mere data points on the grid of classification. This compliant and self-disciplining position forgets the origins of law in violence (and the inverse), and how ‘law’ serves to maintain ‘order’—which is, in other words, the systematized, legally endorsed structure of oppression. The peculiar claim to universalism (to create a universal system of law) that drives this position pays no heed to where, and for whom, these supposedly ‘universal’ categories of law are created, and what connection law has with power or ‘international’ law with the empire. Continue reading “On the ‘Precision’ of Language: Why the Term ‘Genocide’ is So Wrong, or Who Can Use the Term”

Book excerpt–Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?

The following excerpt is from Derrick O’Keefe’s Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?, recently released by Verso as part of its Counterblasts series. The book has been described as a “forensic critique of the influential liberal [and] his opposition to fundamental human rights, the extension of democracy and the pursuit of economic equality”.

The excerpt deals with Ignatieff’s initial cheerleading for the war on terror.

Click here to read a new interview with O’Keefe at the New Left Project.

It would be wrong to treat Ignatieff’s judgment on Iraq merely as “a mistake.” In fact, it flowed inexorably from his near-total identification with U.S. military power. In Empire Lite (2003), Ignatieff takes up an old family business — propagandizing for imperialism. Lamentably, the good old days of his great grandfathers Nicholas Ignatieff and George Monro Grant were long gone, but the great-grandson still came out swinging: “Imperialism used to be the white man’s burden. This gave it a bad reputation. But imperialism doesn’t stop being necessary just because it becomes politically incorrect.”

Empire Lite is heavy on these sorts of pithy, in-your-face, politically incorrect phrases. No effete, overly intellectual constructions from this teller of hard truths. Ignatieff sought to rouse the complacent American liberal conscience to its historical duty.

America’s entire war on terror is an exercise in imperialism. This may come as a shock to Americans, who don’t like to think of their country as an empire. But what else can you call America’s legions of soldiers, spooks and Special Forces straddling the globe? These garrisons are by no means temporary. Terror can’t be controlled unless order is built in the anarchic zones where terrorists find shelter.

There were plenty of new battles to be fought — weak-kneed fools be damned. And the new rationales for military intervention that Ignatieff and others had been road-testing in the 1990s were more sought-after commodities than ever before. Newly ensconced at Harvard, Ignatieff was well positioned to be in the frontline of the battle of ideas over the war on terror.

In the early days after 9/11, Ignatieff was quick to stake out a hawkish position, writing in the Guardian that the terror attacks on the United States were an act of “apocalyptic nihilism,” outside the realm of politics. Those who believed that “the terrorists’ hatreds must be understood, and that what they hate must be changed so that they will hate no more” were dismissed as naïve and foolhardy. “Since the politics of reason cannot defeat apocalyptic nihilism, we must fight,” he thundered.

Continue reading “Book excerpt–Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?”

Poem: Dry Fruit and Nuts

by Amjad Majid

When you are away
I see the night running
away with my days
In oblivion seasons change
and tell me it is time
to harvest and gather.

From orchard to orchard,
I strain my poise in gloom,
branches pat my head,
consoling me obtrusively,
as I garner what they bear,
morosely I am stealing
what some call taking
for the giving,
but not for the sale…

Continue reading “Poem: Dry Fruit and Nuts”

In Cuba, the revolution continues, softly, as times change

The great Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger writes from Cuba:

On my first day in Cuba, in 1967, I waited in a bus queue that was really a conga line. Ahead of me were two large, funny females resplendent in frills of blinding yellow; one of them had an especially long bongo under her arm. When the bus arrived, painted in Cuba’s colours for its inaugural service, they announced that the gringo had not long arrived from London and was therefore personally responsible for this breach in the American blockade. It was an honour I could not refuse.

The bus was a Leyland, made in Lancashire, one of 400 shipped to Cuba in defiance of Washington, which had declared war on the revolution of Fidel Castro. With the Internationale and Love Me Do played to a bongo beat – the Beatles having been “admitted to the Revolution” – we lurched through Havana’s crooked streets. Such a fond memory now accompanies me on my return to Cuba; yet looking back at what I wrote then, I find I used the word “melancholy” more than once. For all the natural warmth of Cubans, the hardship of their imposed isolation left smiles diminished and eyes averted once the music had stopped.

Beyond the nationalised American department stores – the windows empty except for electric fires from China of which Cubans had no need – and the flickering necklace of lights of an almost deserted port, there was the silhouette of an American spy ship, USS Oxford, policing Cuba’s punishment. In 1968, the revolution added its own folly by summarily banning all small businesses, including the paladares, Havana’s lively bars and restaurants. The Soviet era had begun.

Continue reading “In Cuba, the revolution continues, softly, as times change”

Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms

By Huma Dar

A woman in niqab being arrested in Paris, April 12, 2011, copyright EPA

Of Civilities and Dignities

On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.” France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong.  And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)

Continue reading “Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms”

An Élite Not Unlike Ours! Who’d Have Guessed?!

By Huma Dar

Rakhshanda Jalil writes in The Hindu, 27 February 2011, about “that elusive connect with India when she was least expecting it” on a visit to Karachi, Pakistan.  The title of her piece is “A city not unlike home.”

I am always amused when Indians are surprised and taken aback by Pakistanis (whether in Karachi or Lahore or elsewhere) who “speak Urdu and English with almost equal aplomb” or by their “silk sarees and natty blazers” or by their possible cosmopolitanism!!! (Class is class, unfortunately, and the élite exhibit their privileges in similar ways all over the region!)  Does it not, if just remotely, smack of the loaded “praise”: “Gee! Obama is so articulate!” — also known as “the racism of lowered expectation”?  Why would Indians expect otherwise from their class-affiliates on the other side of the border?  Or is it that Bollywood’s Pakistan-bashing fantasies are actually swallowed uncritically — hook, line, and sinker —  even (or perhaps especially) by the educated Indians, eliciting “fears about Kalashnikov-toting Taliban and marauding Muhajirs.”

And by the way, Pakistanis are not all “tall, well-built, good-looking people,” especially under the normative definition of “good-looking” in South Asia (fair-skinned or with a “wheatish complexion”) — thank god for the latter!  Sadly, the former two ascriptions, of course, too easily go awry given malnutrition due to poverty. Continue reading “An Élite Not Unlike Ours! Who’d Have Guessed?!”

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