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Adnan Sami’s Srinagar Show a “Frustrating Tease” For Common Folk

Tens of thousands of young Kashmiris were eager to attend the show — but that was not how it was planned.

Updated
Politics
3 min read
Music composer Adnan Sami performs at a concert on the banks of famous Dal Lake in Srinagar on Saturday.
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Like Arjun, the epic archer from Mahabharata, it is important to keep one’s eye fixed firmly on one’s target. The more dangerous and challenging one’s situation, the more urgent the need to stay tightly focused.

For the government to organise musical extravaganzas in a place like Kashmir is a very good idea, particularly if the motive is for the Centre to demonstrate to common people that it is trying to woo them, not crush them.

If one’s focus on the target blurs, however, best laid plans can come a cropper. One way that can happen is if one restricts such an event to the power elite — those with strong enough ‘VIP’ connections to get in to the ‘free show.’ In fact, it could end up creating unnecessary heartburn and resentment, rather than generating good vibes.

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Extraordinary Pianist

The extraordinarily gifted pianist and stage performer, Adnan Sami put on an admirable show in the grounds of Srinagar’s secure and relatively secluded Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre on Saturday.

There were glittering special effects, strobes, and an array of talented musicians to back him. All these, and the vast stage, were flown in from Mumbai.

The event had its share of nay-sayers who derided it for cultural and dogmatic reasons. However, tens of thousands of young Kashmiris were eager to attend — to enjoy the music and have a relaxing evening.

But that was not how it was planned.

Hierarchical Seating

About 6,000 seats were arranged in hierarchical ranks, with barricades between the ranks. The iron barricades seemed to have been designed for riot control — and to obstruct the view of lesser mortals in the audience.

Right in front of the stage was a row of sofas for ministers and top officials. Kiren Rijiju, the Union Minister of State for Home, had pride of place. The event was the brainchild of the Union Home Ministry, which is apparently eager to change the impression that the Centre is out to crush Kashmiris.

Behind the sofas were rows of two kinds of armchairs, one a little less plush than the other. And then, there were serried ranks of white-draped chairs of the sort one sees at Delhi weddings. Some of them had red sashes with a large bow at the back.

As at a wedding, bevies of waiters moved around with trays of kahwa and cake — for those with ‘platinum cards’ in the front section. Of course, there were more elaborate eats for those on the sofas.

Security Threat

To be sure, the government showed remarkable determination to go ahead with the show just three days after a shocking suicide attack at the most secured part of the Valley — the security complex around the airport.

However, the main purpose of the show, unfortunately, got blurred by the sharp focus on security. It is sometimes better not to organise such an event at all than to let security become a nightmare for people not connected enough with the power circuit.

The whole idea of organising a gala musical event in a place like Kashmir ought to be to let common young people be entertained by a popular singing superstar.

After all, the power-elite could go to Mumbai, Goa, Delhi, Dubai or possibly New York or London to savour such delights.

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Traffic Shutdowns

Traffic was closed on the stretch of the boulevard near the venue. So ordinary people trying to get to and from the residential neighbourhoods and villages beyond could not use the road. There was a traffic jam on the main approach road to the boulevard from the city, as those with cards tried to get past those who were not allowed.

To be sure, there was much less public distress on Saturday than when even the city centre, Lal Chowk, was locked down for a Zubin Mehta concert four years ago.

However, comparisons didn’t really help those young people not connected to power — for whom the event was a bit of a frustrating tease.

(The writer is a Kashmir-based author and journalist. He can be reached at @david_devadas. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorsed them nor is responsible for the same.)

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