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.

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"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”

Clive Stafford Smith on the Guantanamo hunger strikes

Clive Stafford Smith on the outrageous case of Shaker Aamer who has been detained for 12 years without charge and tortured systematically. Guantanamo, he argues, is in many ways worse than death row or Soviet gulags.

Obama’s torture policy

Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines returns:

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama promised a new direction. Just days after taking office, the new US president issued a series of executive orders banning all acts of torture, discontinuing the use of CIA black sites, and calling for the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay to be closed.

Continue reading “Obama’s torture policy”

A bad day for torturers


It has been a bad 24 hours for the world’s torturers. First it was Asef Shawkat who oversaw torture in Damascus, now Ayman Mohyeldin is reporting that the Egyptian head of intelligence, the notorious torturer Omer Suleiman has also died in the US. I hope the torturers of Bagram, Guantanamo, Ashkelon, and Chechnya also meet the same fate, not necessarily naturally.

A Scene from Pulp Fiction in Kashmir

PUMPKIN: Everybody be cool, this is an occupation!
YOLANDA: Any of you fucking pricks move, and I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of you!
JULES: So, tell me again about those killing-for-promotions there…

"Pulp Fiction Bananas" by Banksy, once near Old Street Tube Station, London, now whitewashed.  From http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-images-by-street-artist-banksy.php
"Pulp Fiction Bananas" by Banksy, once near Old Street Tube Station, London, now whitewashed.

PUMPKIN: Everybody be cool, this is an occupation!
YOLANDA: Any of you fucking pricks move, and I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of you!
JULES: So, tell me again about those killing-for-promotions there…
VINCENT: What do you want to know?
JULES: Killing is legal there, right?
VINCENT: Yeah, it is legal but it ain’t 100% legal. I mean you can’t walk into a house and start shooting right away. You’re only supposed to take those fucking pricks to certain designated places and blast off their fucking brains? You have to give them some name…
JUKES: Those are encounter sites?
VINCENT: Yeah, it breaks down like this: it’s legal to kill them, it’s legal to own it and, if you’re the occupier of the encounter site, it’s legal to bury them there. It’s legal to carry their bodies, but that doesn’t really matter ’cause — even if you got a truckload of them — if the cops stop you, it’s illegal for them to search you. Searching you is a right that the cops in Kashmir don’t have. Continue reading “A Scene from Pulp Fiction in Kashmir”

Police Chief Timoney, Meet Bahraini Mothers

by Medea Benjamin

14-year-old Ali Jawad died when a tear gas canister fired at close range smashed his face.

John Timoney is the controversial former Miami police chief well known for orchestrating brutal crackdowns on protests in Miami and Philadelphia- instances with rampant police abuse, violence, and blatant disregard for freedom of expression. It should be of great concern that the Kingdom of Bahrain has brought Timoney and John Yates, former assistant commissioner of Britain’s Metropolitan Police, to “reform” Bahrain’s security forces.

Since assuming his new position, Timoney has claimed that Bahrain has been reforming it brutal police tactics in response to recommendations issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. He says that there is less tear gas being used and that while tear gas might be “distasteful,” it’s not really harmful.

I have no idea what country Chief Timoney is talking about, because it’s certainly not the Bahrain I saw this past week, a week that marked the one-year anniversary since the February 14, 2011 uprising.

I was in Bahrain for five days before being deported for joining a peaceful women’s march. During my stay, I accompanied local human rights activists to the villages where protests were raging and police cracking down. Every day, I inhaled a potent dose of tear gas, and came close to being hit in the head with tear gas canisters. Every evening I saw the fireworks and smelled the noxious fumes as hundreds of tear gas canisters were lobbed into the village of Bani Jamrah, next door to where I was staying. The villagers would get on their roofs yelling “Down, Down Hamad” (referring to the King). In exchange, as a form of collective punishment, the whole village would be doused in tear gas. I went to bed coughing, eyes burning, wondering how in the world the Bahrainis can stand this.

Continue reading “Police Chief Timoney, Meet Bahraini Mothers”