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2nd September '2013
The “Beautiful Prison” Concert!

The proposed concert by the Maestro Zubin Mehta is supposed to convey the “Ehsas-i-Kashmir” or the “Feelings of Kashmir” and also get worldwide recognition for Kashmir’s rich History and Culture. Kashmir’s rich History and Culture is already known world over. What need recognition are the real and true feelings of the majority of Kashmiris at the present moment. The ground reality of Kashmir was described by the European Union delegation some years back. They called it a “Beautiful Prison”! Kashmir has been given many other names and attributes in the recent times. A nuclear flashpoint. Most dangerous place on earth. A troubled paradise. South Asia’s hot spot. The most militarised place on earth. In fact, most of the western countries have been advising their nationals to avoid travel to Kashmir. They all believe that the ground situation in Kashmir is highly combustible notwithstanding the government claims of a tourism boom ushering in normalcy. Even the propagators of tourism normalcy refer to the volatility of the situation. One may not claim it to be a powder keg which would blow up by the lighting of a single match yet no one can dispute the discontent and alienation simmering under the calm surface.

During the last elections, Chris Morris, the BBC correspondent had reported from Srinagar that he had never seen so many soldiers in civilian areas in any part of the world. The number of soldiers deployed in Kashmir was more than those deployed for elections in the entire length and breadth of Bangladesh at the same time! No one can dispute the fact that Kashmir is the highest militarised area in the world when one compares the number of uniformed people to the local population. There is army, paramilitary troops, and the local police. Even the number of local policemen exceeds a hundred thousand. Apart from massive cantonments housing headquarters of various corps and divisions, the entire area is dotted with army and security camps.

In the past whenever any VIP visits Kashmir, the entire route to the International Convention Centre and the State Guest House at Chashma Shahi where the VIPs usually stay, is closed for days. The whole area is “sanitised” to ensure that no disgruntled Kashmiris are around. The Security bosses take these extra-ordinary measures in view of what they called the “Threat Perception”! It has been reported that for the forthcoming Zubin Mehta Concert a three tier security set up has been envisaged. The whole area may be cordoned off well in advance and may remain so till all the VIPs leave. One wonders what feelings the live telecast of the event would convey to the world? A huge orchestra being conducted by one of the top conductors in the love garden of Shalimar watched by over 1500 invitees, reminiscent of the days of Mughal emperors Shah-i-Jahan and Jahangir conveys “Peace” and “Bonhomie” prevalent in Kashmir. So where is the problem? Shalimar resembles the famous French gardens of Versailles and the concert would be reminding us of Marie Antoinette who on being told that the crowds surrounding her palace did not have bread and water, asked “Why don’t they eat Cakes and drink Champagne?”!

There is one catch in the show. What happens if the dozens of TV teams and other journalists supposed to be covering the show decide to move around in the old city of Srinagar to know the “real” feelings of the people? Will they be allowed to do so or the arranged charter flights would not allow them time to wander around? Additionally, as usual SAS Geelani may save the embarrassment to the government by giving a shutdown call and Yasin Malik too may go for “Shalimar Chaloo” thereby ensuring a declared or undeclared curfew all over the city. Even though such a scenario may save the government from an uneasy media coverage but it may truly convert the event to the “Beautiful Prison” Concert! There is a popular saying, “Man proposes, God disposes”! Quite often the events take such turns that result is diametrically opposite to what the planners had intended to achieve from it! It would be very interesting to watch the concert and its aftermath.

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