Dear Zubin Mehta And Team
Welcome to Kashmir. Yours Truly – Barricaded Kashmiris
JUNAID AZIM MATTU
Dear Mr. Mehta and the entire team of ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’,
Welcome to Kashmir. You might have heard tales of our warm hospitality from travelers, traders and tourists. It’s something we wear on our sleeve. We take great pride in making our guests feel at home, in protecting and safeguarding them and when parting, leaving them with memories to be cherished for a lifetime. That is Kashmir. No doubt. And it will remain so. At the risk of sounding clichéd, it runs in our blood.
Speaking of blood, a lot of blood has been spilled in Kashmir – with a hundred and twenty odd men, mostly teenagers, gunned down in protests as recently as the summer of 2010. The political turmoil that erupted in 1989 has resulted in gross human rights abuses and thousands of innocent fatalities – a lot of them in cold-blood, some en-masse and some dubbed “collateral”. Whichever side of the political line one might stand on, one cannot deny that this soil is soaked in blood – not from a conquest hundreds of years ago or from mythological battles – but from a turmoil that is both recent and current.
Those who partook in the bloodletting in Kashmir, overtly and covertly – as cronies and collaborators, tragically occupy our seats of government today. So if you smell blood on the stage, know that it comes from the cuffs of the gentlemen in the front rows - those you will often smile at and whose smiles you will often see.
A conflict as bloody and harrowing as the one we have seen has dire, long-term psychological effects. Kashmiris have shown exemplary character in remaining unquestionably secular, liberal and sober – perhaps the same traits that have been exploited rather than being appreciated. We are good-natured folk. But yes, we are bitter and cynical too – and understandably so. For a small little alpine valley that has seen around seventy thousand corpses in two decades – we are astonishingly reconciliatory and hopeful.
So, it’s not that we don’t know how to move on or how to allow a closure. Absolutely not. Had that been the case, we would have not been able to survive. However, as I mentioned at the start of this letter – this turmoil, in numerous ways, is current. While you perform in Shalimar Bagh, this city will be turned into a fortress and we wont be allowed to ply on our own roads without abuses and canes hurled at us. The police has already ordered us to stay nine kilometers away from Shalimar Bagh. Roads have been closed for traffic, tourism has been disrupted and the most tragic of all – dozens and dozens of weddings in that area will have no guests, no celebrations.
Imagine a wedding in Germany. Months of planning. Years of excitement. Wedding cards, preparations and merriment. And then – an unofficial curfew – all roads to the venue closed for traffic. Will a hundred such concerts make up for the pain and anguish caused to that bride? To her family? You are all good people. Just imagine.
I spoke of the psychological effects of how we are governed – quite literally by Draco himself. Pushed, shoved, frisked and insulted – we have become objects of great ridicule in supposedly our own land. And we are still optimistic – because honestly we have no other option – nobody does. You got to move on. We understand that. But how do we move on when we continue to be treated like untouchable subjects of an establishment and a political elite that has its hands soaked with blood? If this concert was for Kashmiris – why have Kashmiris been asked to stay nine kilometers away from the venue? Are we all savages or perhaps potential threats to the concert?
Why weren’t tickets sold in Kashmir? Why weren’t a certain number of seats reserved for Kashmiris? Perhaps a couple hundred orphans of the conflict who would be well served to be introduced to Beethoven? We have a rich culture. We love music. We love poetry and literature and against all odds – have continued to preserve our endangered language in all its beautiful hues and colors. So, we are a people who would have opened our hearts to Beethoven and your performance – and truly treasured it.
However, we have been yet again reminded of our place in this whole big tamasha – uppity little subjects of the new colonial Raj – little pesky simpletons who wouldn’t know Beethoven from the Beetles. The most tragic part is – the politicians, bureaucrats and ministers from Kashmir who will occupy prized rows in your concert – most of them are tone-deaf – because a heart that doesn’t know justice, is a heart that will never know music.
I welcome you again and wish all of you a pleasant stay here and safe travels on your way back. God Bless You all.
Junaid Azim Mattu
(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Spokesperson of J&K Peoples’ Conference. Views are personal.)
Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Sep 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Sep 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Sep 2013 00:00:00 IST
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