Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department is organizing a poetic symposium (mushaira) termed as Mehfil e Kashmir on the 1st of November, 2015. The Mushaira is slated to be held at the SKICC. It may be stated at the outset that the there is only one Kashmiri in the assembly of poets. This, however, may not be as curious as the holding of the Mushaira itself.
Mushairas and Mehfils are culturally and socially not indigenous to Kashmir. These poetic symposiums are peculiar to Northern India, Pakistan, and Deccan. The Mushaira is then a cultural import to Kashmir. There is no problem with cultural imports or exchanges as long as there is receptivity to these in the host culture or society. However, in Kashmir, one would be hard pressed to find takers for cultural imports as Mushairas except perhaps for very tiny elite. Why is public money then being spent for an event that has neither any takers nor mass appreciation in Kashmir?
There can be both prosaic as well as idiosyncratic reasons at work here. From a prosaic perspective, the Tourism Department may be sitting on a pile of cash. With nothing imaginative to do, the honchos at the department decide to hold a Mushaira. Theres money to play with and then the frill or bonus is pleasing and entertaining a small coterie of influential people. This may be one reason. The other could be to convey an impression of normalcy in Kashmir by holding a Mushaira. The trick here is simple: invite a few people from the country, throw in an odd smattering of Kashmiris in the assembly of poets or what have you, invite journalists and you have an event that can be presented as an indication of normalcy in Kashmir. Either way, holding the Mushaira in Kashmir is bizarre and reflects a disconnection from reality.
This is not to say that cultural events need not or must not be held in Kashmir. They need to. But the nature of these events should be aligned to the temperament and sensibility of Kashmiris-the kind that would be both a catharsis and offer a respite to Kashmiris of all stripes. This would be more prudent and even pragmatic. The converse- holding events that neither have a bearing on Kashmir nor carry any traction with Kashmiris (especially in the Kashmir division of the state)- that are disconnected and irrelevant to the cultural and emotional universe of Kashmiris carry two connotations. One is that holding these events of this nature constitutes an insult to Kashmiris. Given that people are uninterested in these events here, why hold them? Second is that these are a waste of public monies. Public money is being wasted either for the entertainment of a small coterie of people or public money is being utilized for political ends. From a broader perspective, both- raiding the public kitty for private purposes or political ones- pertain to and reflect a broader lack of accountability in the state. Since people dont really care about what happens to their tax money, the ruling class feels free to spend it as it pleases. The consequence is that Kashmir and Kashmiris suffer. But then does any one care?
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