SRINAGAR: Kashmir’s civil society on Saturday put up a hard-hitting and impromptu show in the heart of Srinagar to rival a state-backed concert by Zubin Mehta who played carefully rehearsed notes to a select audience a few miles away.
Despite pithily lampooning the state for its many abuses, the event bore no rancour to the celebrated conductor whom organisers invited for ‘Jashn-e-Kashmir’ once their “homeland was free”
Wit, humour and tragedy flowed spontaneously from the stage as actors, writers and rappers made their point about ‘Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir’ (Reality of Kashmir), the name they had given to their show.
If biting sarcasm from the artistes evoked uproarious laughter, poignant depictions of deaths and disappearances in Kashmir had the crowds in sobs.
The charged crowds rose with emotion, and chanted freedom slogans as artistes turned page after page of the Kashmir tragedy.
Kept in suspense till late Friday night by authorities who were initially reluctant to grant permission for the show, civil society members, nevertheless managed to pull off a coup within hours, with practically no material resources.
They made a telling counterpoint to the Western classical music concert organised by the German embassy which, they said, was akin to drowning the cries of state-inflicted pain in Kashmir.
The crowds came, and in thousands, despite undisguised discouragement from the government which had placed barricades and mobile bunkers across roads near the venue to deter participation.
In sharp contrast to the stiff formality of the Shalimar Bagh concert where common Kashmiris were not allowed, the crowds at the Municipal Park resembled a carnival with all its gaiety and excitement.
People had been trickling in since morning, though the show was to begin late in the afternoon, a condition put by the government wary of the international media attention the event was sure to attract in contested Kashmir.
“For a moment, the Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir seemed like a celebration of azadi,” a participant, Shahnaz Bashir, later said.
“We are not against music or Zubin Mehta as a person,” Kashmir’s renowned poet and satirist, Zareef Ahmad Zareef, said. “We are only against the motives for which he is performing here.”
“When Kashmir will achieve its freedom, we will not hesitate in inviting artists from all over the world, including Zubin Mehta, to celebrate Jashn-e-Azadi with us,” Zareef, echoing other civil society members, said. ’
On the stage, artists, poets, and writers paid tribute to what they described as the resilience and struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The government made all attempts to sabotage our program,” Khurram Parvez, a spokesman for the show, said. “They created the false impression through the media that they had given us permission to hold the program, but they have put restrictions against people coming to the grounds.”
Parvez held the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah responsible for the restrictions placed around the venue.
Noted pediatrician and writer and ‘Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir’ member, Dr. Altaf Ahmad said that the German embassy was misleading world by claiming that the Zubin Mehta event was for the people of Kashmir.
“The people who are attending the Zubin concert don’t have even the slightest sympathy with the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Dr. Altaf.
“The Zubin Mehta concert is a program of the rich organized by the rich for the rich, in which Rs 100 crore have been reportedly spent,” he said.
Reciting his poem, Zareef accused Germany of becoming a part of “a propaganda machinery to strengthen the illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“We are not here to celebrate today but to recite dirges and elegies on the woes of the Kashmiri people,” he said. “Occupation has never been permanent in any part of the world and there will be an end of Indian occupation of Kashmir one day,” he said.
The event included rap performances by young singers Saif and Fahad, and a fusion music performance by Irfan and Bilal.
The Valley’s noted theater director, Irshad Mustaq, presented his small play titled “Bai Chus Shaahid” (I am witness) which was followed by Band-e-Pathar and art performance by well-known Delhi-based Kashmiri artist Inder Salim and students of the Institute of Music and Fine Arts in Srinagar.
Social activist Rafiq Punjabi, political activist Shahid Shahidi and a number of other participants recited their poems.