German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner has issued an impassioned plea to seek the support of Kashmiris for Ehsaas-e-Kashmir, a concert featuring world renowned music conductor Zubin Mehta in Srinagar.
The concert has been opposed by separatists, including both the hard-line and moderate factions of the Hurriyat, and militants. They have claimed that holding Mehta's concert in a "conflict zone" will affect the "disputed status" of Kashmir.
Hurriyat has even organised a parallel concert called Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir (Reality of Kashmir) to project the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.
In the backdrop of such vehement opposition, Steiner's plea to the Kashmiri people explains the rationale behind orgnising the concert and outlines Germany's long-term plans in the Valley.
Here is Steiner's statement:
On 7th September, world famous German musical heritage will be hosted by world famous Kashmiri architectural heritage: Beethoven at Shalimar Bagh!
Why this unique classical concert? Why here in the heart of Kashmir?
This concert is for you, the Kashmiris. It is a German cultural event with the best of Europe’s musical tradition brought to you to pay tribute to the rich cultural tradition of Kashmir and its wonderful people.
My wife and myself are hosting this event. It is funded mainly by private benevolent sponsors. It’s purely cultural and does not alter the political position of Germany and the EU on Kashmir.
At the same time, this concert has the potential to make the world look at the complex realities of Kashmir: Its breathtaking beauty as well as the many challenges you, the Kashmiris, face in daily life. I am well aware of both.
Therefore, our commitment goes well beyond music:
We fund a health camp for underprivileged people from villages around Mattipoora. We support the construction of a major center for medical treatment near Baramulla. We foster academic exchange.
And we are prepared to do more: One concrete project I am working on could be the setup of a mechanical engineering center for young Kashmiris by a German company. And why not take up the request to use German knowhow for conserving Dal Lake?
I respect differing opinions. I acknowledge that not all view this well intended gesture with the same benevolent eye. But I also do know that a great many Kashmiris will do the utmost in order not to miss this unique opportunity.
And let's please be honest: Our concert is not an alternative to, but a mobiliser for more engagement in Kashmir.
Many Kashmiris from all walks of life will be at the concert. Many more will follow it on TV. They are looking forward to this unique concert as much as my wife and myself. They will see Shalimar Bagh, once in rather poor conditions, meticulously restored to its full original beauty. And they will see, hear and experience true Kashmiri flavour on stage. Something they will be proud of. Beethoven at Shalimar Bagh. The best of our culture in your historic Srinagar. To honour Kashmir. To express to you, through music, our respect and affection. Ehsaas-e-Kashmir.
– Michael Steiner
Ambassador of Germany
Image: Zubin Mehta ' Photograph: Reuters