|On Saturday when Zubin Mehta played Beethoven symphonies by the banks of the world famed Dal Lake and made international news, a little distance away from the fortified venue of this grand show, Kashmiris made a history of sorts with the phenomenal success of the parallel cultural extravaganza organised by the civil society. The success of the latter is measured by the huge attendance at the programme titled Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir despite the curbs and restrictions on the movement of the people, the international limelight the programme received and the creative manner in which the stories of oppression of the masses were so evocatively communicated through songs, music, drama and art. The people of Kashmir need to be congratulated for giving a new creative and peaceful direction to their struggle and resistance against the oppressive policies of the State. Their courage and sense of commitment also needs to be saluted for braving the threat of harassment, cordons, barricades and restrictions and reaching the venue of the programme in the heart of the city after walking long distances and crossing all hurdles. Besides, it also communicated that the opposition of a vast section of Kashmiris to the Zubin Mehta show did not stem from an aversion to music but from the State-centric agenda of denying the sufferings of the people and silencing their voices. That the Zubin Mehta show, despite the mesmerising appeal of his music, revealed the absurdity of organising it with negligible Kashmiris, other than a few ‘sarkari’ persons, present in the select audience of 1500, and the musical and artistic articulation of what ails Kashmir at the Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir is self explanatory of the aim behind this creative and historic peoples’ event.
Yesterday’s event is significant not only for the civil society’s ability to seize the opportunity of the presence of huge presence of international media persons in the Valley and convey through them the traumatic story of the Kashmir that never figures in the usual official perspective and discourse. It is significant for making the people realise themselves the power of peaceful and creative means of resistance as a tool as opposed to the angry noises and violent retaliations of brutalised masses. What the barrel of the gun and noisy protests cannot achieve, few hours of creative articulation of their sufferings can do in ways that are more communicative and have an enduring impact.
This may not be the first time that the struggles and sufferings of the people have been articulated in creative ways. Talented youth from Kashmir have been trying to do this in various ways and forms like writing books and essays, articles and poetry for prestigious publications, song writers and singers have been trying to reach out to the world with their evocative lyrics and music, young artists dabble in colours to articulate the collective sufferings and memories of the ordinary Kashmiris and theatre is on its road to revival with mainly localised efforts to make Kashmir’s contemporary politics and life the focal point of the themes in the most innovative manner. A recent precursor to this event was the impressive manner in which the families of disappeared persons sought to portray their plight at Srinagar’s Pratap Park on the International Day of the Disappeared Persons through similar art exhibitions and artistic performances. However, the scale of Saturday’s event and the limelight it hogged is far bigger and that is why it becomes historic in many ways. It was essentially a peoples’ event, created by their sense of commitment, courage, passion and unity. No amount of employment of propagandist machinery to give a twist to this endeavour by tainting it and projecting it as separatist sponsored or giving it any other colour will change the reality. It will continue to be a victory of the people – one that is peaceful, powerful and creative – and cannot be de-legitimised, crushed, silenced or negated on with brute force. This victory of the people, however, would be a wasted endeavour if this new direction in the resistance movement of the common masses is not sustained through their own efforts and sustained commitment. Such efforts must continue in small and large ways with increasing regularity.
As for the government which tried its best to sabotage the programme with excessive restrictions, it may have to answer lot of uncomfortable questions about its policies and the logic of bringing a western classical music maestro to the Valley in the name of the people without even including them. The chief minister may need to do some introspection about the kind of money and manpower that was spent for security and logistical support to the grand show in a cash starved state where art and culture remain neglected and local artistes unsung and uncared about; he may also have to search within for comprehending the hypocrisy of his utterances about music being an “uplifting experience for the soul” just two hours after 4 boys claimed to be innocent had been gunned down by state’s security agencies (even as per official claims, atleast two boys are innocent) without even a mention of this brutality. Honest assessments alone would guide the course of reason on both sides. For the government, it is important to realise that rather than treating the people as an enemy and opposing everything they say and in whatever manner they say, the greatest service it can do is by allowing the articulation of anger and protest in such peaceful and creative ways, if not facilitating them, because such powerful ways of expression are potent enough to dilute the significance of violence and gun.