By M. J. Aslam
Art and culture are interlinked. Art flows from vast ocean of culture. In a broader sense, art which forms part of culture of any society encompasses within it varied disciplines of music, dance, poetry, drama, photography, prose, painting, sculpture & suchlike. Art & culture together reflect character, and desire to preserve identity, of a community. Kashmiri community is no exception to it. Their art too stands for their unique cultural behaviour & social norm. Art gives an opportunity to a community to understand, inter alia, its past & present history, and to reflect thereon. But pathetically, overwhelming Kashmiris affiliated to “art & culture group” of the society have not delivered what was ordinarily expected of them; considering the fact that they are generally assumed to have higher levels of sensitivity towards happenings around than the rest. The decades of miserable conditions in which the Kashmiri community have been entangled in have not aroused or touched their delicate sense of social responsibility, if at all they had have any. It is this apathy on their part towards human sufferings at their home that has been used & capitalised by local “proxy-politicians” for [only] nurturing, furthering & strengthening the bonds between the governed & the governors. Therefore, no surprises to see today that the Kashmiri artist “is what his rulers have made him”. (The valley of Kashmir, Sir WR Lawrence, page 283).
I just mentioned of “community character” that artists, in a given society through their contributions, shape & present for understanding of others whence it becomes a common narrative, then. It is something that a community inherently possesses & always endeavours at its preservation. It is not something that is dictated by others or borrowed from elsewhere. It is not to be applied like a makeup or cosmetics on a spotty-face to hide its reality. Mere building of roads, houses, colonies, commercial places, bridges, parks, schools, stadiums, hospitals, universities, etc, by the “rulers” through the “proxies” is not enough to constitute “community character”. Such institutions & centres are a part of socio-cultural life of a community but do not completely represent its “identity or character” which emanates from a collective thought & effort, and not individual directions of thought & effort. So, a million “grandeur houses” of Kashmiris cannot hide countless “bloodstains” of death & destruction caused to, & shining writ large on, larger sections of this community. The cause of all death & destruction has been the lust for power arousing from greed and ambition of the “local politicians” who have been working only as “proxies” in the political landscape of JK since decades. They have, with active State Power, set a “dominant discourse” in Jk where virtues of others are shown as vices & vices of self as virtues. The apparent objective is to silent the dissent & argument. Art & artists within & beyond JK have been used for achieving the desired ends. Everyone on CM Chair till now has sequestered the “donated-power” & “money” for fulfillment of an assignment that the Chair carries with it. It is ironic that so called “art & culture of Kashmir” has been used not for building community but for ulterior purposes as will become no-brainer from the discussion below.
Initially in 1947, immediately after arrival of Indian Army in Kashmir, a new department of cultural and propaganda programmes of Emergency Administration of SMA was established under the supervision of famous communist couple , namely, Mr. P L Bedi and his wife wife, Fareeda Bedi. http://kashmirwatch.com/sma-formed-kashmirs-national-fouj/. The simultaneous acts of Delhi-Rulers [JL Nehru] in “dethroning” of SMA & “enthroning” of Bakshi GM on 9th August, 1953 on the “PM Chair” of JK added newest dimensions to the “art & cultural” programming of JK, especially Muslim community. SMA was put behind the bars. People “prophetically” loved him & his “dethroning” left scores dead, injured & jailed. His successor in Chair had to manage & assuage the “anger” of SMA-followers on the streets. What could be better than [mis]using “art & cultural programmes” to achieve the goal of forgetting “sher e kashmir” & replacing him by “badshah sani” [example of noble king of Kashmir]: the epithet that the masses soon bestowed on Bakshi GM not only for his “cultural extravaganza” but mainly for subsidised rations, sale of land-plots in newly created Jawahar Nagar & Karan Nagar colonies of Srinagar for “takas”, forest-licenses to plunder forests to elite-forest-lessees ( his own ruffian followers), government contracts, government jobs, & suchlike largess spent by him from Deli-Treasures on people. It was, therefore, no surprising, during those Bakshi-regime-days, to see SMA-followers in Mujahid Manzil area throwing stones on Mirza Afzal Beigh car & shouting “Drag e Dev” [famine demon , referring to man travelling in car] & “Badsha Sani” [ meaning Bakshi] Zindabaad [long live].
Now coming back to 1953 developments. To divert the attention of the people from SMA-Cult, Bakshi GM, obviously, with prior consultation of Deli-Rulers, employed a well planned “diversionary tactics” under the name of “Kashmir Festival” that was inaugurated in 1956 which continued every year in all seasons. The “free package” of that festival included Jishn e Nishat, Jishn e Shalimar, Jishn e Tailbal, Jishn e Cheshma Shahi, etc. The Jashn e Kashmir or Kashmir-Festival comprised of theatre performances, music, dance, fun, frolic, poetry, bhand e pather, Chaker, rouf, tamashe, exhibition, etc, and these brilliant innovatory items of Kashmir Artists were displayed not only at abovementioned places of entertainment but in every nook & cranny of the valley including schools, colleges, university & newly constructed Tagore-Hall [after Robinder Nath Tagore’s name]. The main performers at all those Festival-Spots were local artists who were performing to their best to “appease” the “directors” & “audience”. That was the objective. Shab e Nishat & Shab e Shalimar were additional flavours of Kashmir-Festival. Badamwari, TRC ground, Emporium ground & Nedous hotel of Srinagar were also used for Mushira, songs & Qawali by the then famous poets & singers of Kashmir including Late Zoon Begum & Habib Painter. Some Indian artists were also invited to perform for general entertainment of the masses. I suppose that it were the times when SMA, on the other hand, might have been feeling heat on grilling pan of interrogation & incarceration at the hands of his own friends, JL Nehru & Bakshi, who were celebrating Jash ne Kashmir along with simple & naïve masses of Kashmir. Some famous personalities of Kashmir like Shameem Ahmad Shameem, Gh Rasool Nazki, Zareef Ahmad Zareef, Ghulam Nabi Khayal, etc, had also participated in, & some of them been also brand ambassadors of, Kashmir–Festival.
With the end of Bakshi regime in 1964, the Jashn e Kashmir that was purposely & deeply entrenched in the socio-cultural milieu of Kashmir continued to be celebrated by new successors in CM Chair of Kashmir & people of Kashmir.
With introduction of new scientific & technological tools of communication in Kashmir Community during the last two to four decades, bulk of artistic work & cultural programmes are displayed on mass & public media in different forms & shapes. But still, under the prevailing circumstances, the “government/s” in power, time & again, feel constrained to “hire” some “well known” names associated with “music & singing” world over & invite them to perform at Mughal Gardens [[Zubin Mehta on 09-09-2013 at Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/zubin-mehta-enthralls-audiences-in-srinagar-s-mughal-garden/story- GibzfEY fget328Oi2jMDpN. html(2) http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/srinagar-city/zubin-s-music-pains-shalimar-residents /154866.html ]] or SKICC, Srinagar [[ Adnan Sami, on 07-10-2017 http://www. greater kashmir.com/news/life-and-style/adnan-sami-omar-abdullah-spat-over-former-s-kashmir-concert/262497.html ]] for “entertaining” the “audience” with their “musical & singing performances”. The “audience”, however, on both the occasions missed the common people of Kashmir. The music-concerts were attended by & enthralled, the government functionaries & Kashmir Artists who were invitees to it.
To conclude, despite the best efforts of the “organisers” of these musical concerts, it’s nothing doing with so-called “cultural revolution” of Kashmiri Community that is feels too deeply bruised to be anointed with these “staged” musical concerts. It is simple repetition of the old “diversionary tactic” about Kashmir to present a totally contrary narrative of the facts on ground. Music is a part of any society as long as it is not politically motivated. I think repetition of these concerts is old wine in new bottle & so, clearly an admission that stasis exists in Kashmir.