Zubin Mehta, conductor of perhaps the finest orchestra in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic, is happy he made music to bring solace to the people of Kashmir. Had he followed up with the kind of reserve he maintained in the run up to the Srinagar event, he’d have been lauded for his stress on the healing qualities of great Western music rendered by top grade musicians. But he had to open his mouth and spoil the effect. There’s something childishly silly about Mehta’s ventilating his thoughts, among which was the nugget that Article 370 has been a boon and ought to be retained in perpetuity because as he said “can you imagine” what all the settlers from elsewhere in India would have done to the beautiful surroundings of the Valley had 370 not been there to prevent just such a catastrophe?!
Obviously, Mehta, who has spent most of his life outside the country, mostly in salubrious climes, from his personal perspective, considers aesthetics more important than the national interest or the fact of this offending Article in the Constitution turning the Kashmir dispute into a suppurating wound that has become septic after 60-odd years of obvious non-treatment. What is desperately needed is ridding the Constitution off this bothersome provision. May be Zubin saw how his home city of Mumbai has been converted into a vast and expanding slum with shanties and lean-to colonies occupying every spare bit of space in that island city — populated by precisely the kind of outsiders all over, including from the Maharashtra countryside, he does not wish to see flooding into Kashmir — the “Switzerland of Asia”.
But what does Mehta care that Art 370 keeps the dispute with Pakistan simmering and the status of this province within the Union distinct and separate, providing legal license to certain natives of Kashmir to keep their agitation going, even as the people of the Valley survive on handouts from the rest of the Indian people who financially support their “separateness”. The largest quantum of subsidies transferred by the Centre to any Indian state is Kashmir.
The more troubling question is the Motivation of the German Govt to finance this little cultural do amidst the beauty of the Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar. Indeed, before approving of any such event, did the MEA at all wonder about the purpose of it? Did somebody in that Ministry not consider the fact that allowing such an affair would not so much put a stamp of international approval on the relative peace prevailing in Kashmir at the present time as confirm Kashmir’s disputed status and its standing as an issue that can spark conflict between India and Pakistan? Are none of the MEA officials aware of the interest and the effort of the West European “do gooder” states — UK, France, and Germany, to try and slyly push for international mediation on Kashmir?
What Kashmir needs is not just expeditious abrogation of Article 370 but grants of lands all along the LOC to ex-Indian Army soldiers on the condition that the title to these pieces of strategic real estate can only be sold and ownership transferred to other ex-military men. This will, as I have argued in my writings, create a defensible buffer zone preventing the crossovers by terrorists, so-called “azadi”-seekers, and Islamist extremists from POK. It will once and for all put closure on the Kashmir dispute with the Pakistanis having their slice of Kashmir. Remarkably, GOI/MEA these days does not even mention POK as being disputed territory, which only leads the International public to believe that what’s being contested is only Indian Kashmir. More evidence of MEA being on the ball!