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Why Adnan Sami’s concert will mean more than the music for the Valley?

Riyaz Wani | Updated on: 6 October 2017, 18:40 IST
(Photo by Shriya Patil/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

Mercifully it hasn’t been politicised yet, but singer Adnan Sami’s concert in Kashmir has acquired some distinct political overtones which have not been lost on Kashmir. 

When he would sing his chartbusting numbers on the banks of the picturesque Dal Lake to the applause of the audience, his background as a former Pakistani musician, who voluntarily gave up the country’s citizenship to become Indian, was of as much importance in a place rife with separatist and pro-Pakistan sentiment, as was his music.

However, unlike the performance of the Junoon group in May 2008 which was opposed by the Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin or for that matter that of the Zubin Mehta in 2013 or the literary festival in 2011 which faced a severe civil society backlash, no political or social group has taken any exception to Sami’s concert.

The performance which follows shortly after one by Kashmiri singer Abha Hanjura, is generally being seen as an attempt to send across a message of normalcy to boost the drastically reduced tourism inflow.

This is a message that, however, the government too is plying. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, who will himself travel to Srinagar to witness the concert, has said it will help promote the beauty and culture of Kashmir.

“People everywhere can witness the beauty, culture, and music of Kashmir. The concert will show the lively side of Kashmir,” said Rijiju.

While the state can draw some comfort from the absence of the political opposition to the show, it is doing everything possible to secure the event from a possible militant attack. More so, after a daring Fidayeen strike on a BSF camp near Srinagar airport, arguably the Valley’s most fortified place. In a pre-dawn attack, three militants managed to get past several layers of security barriers and kill an ASI and injure four other personnel before being themselves killed.

So in an unprecedented measure, the government barred the traffic on the boulevard and made elaborate traffic arrangements to divert all thoroughfare which passes through the roads close to the event. A press release to this effect has been advertised in all local dailies.

“All types of vehicles, except those of the invitees, shall be diverted at Ram Munshi Bagh towards Dalgate. The vehicles going towards Duck Park, Shalimar Crossing, Telbal Crossing and its adjacent areas shall be allowed to ply towards Nishat via Foreshore Road,” the advertisement reads.

Similarly, the government also shut down the internet on Friday as a precautionary measure, in view of the growing public restiveness over the frequent cases of the braid cutting across the Valley. Scores of women and even young girls have had their braids cut by masked persons. Separatists have called for the protests against the menace which has now metamorphosed into beard-cutting.

The traffic restrictions and the internet shutdown have attracted severe public criticism with people questioning the need for the event.

“If anything, it shows the concert has little to do with the people in the Valley and everything to do about the projection of a fake normalcy to the rest of the world. The venue of the event and the areas around it are being turned into a no-go area for the ordinary people,” said Naseer Ahmad, a local columnist.

Similarly, senior journalist Ahmad Ali Fayaz has questioned the wisdom of holding the concert if it involves elaborate security and traffic arrangements, which will inconvenience thousands of people.

“What is the purpose of holding Adnan Sami show at SKICC Srinagar? Even as two to three thousand select invitees – so-called VIPs of politics, bureaucracy, police, military, media et all and their friends and family members – will enjoy ‘Hum ko bhi lift karade’, tens of thousands of ordinary citizens will be held hostage and denied movement to and from their residential areas,” he posted on social media.

According to a government handout, around 3,000 guests are expected to attend the event comprising “children, media persons and officers”. The Deputy Commissioner Srinagar is supervising the event. He and the director of tourism in the state are jointly issuing “colour-coded passes for one person on non-transferable basis” with acknowledgement entries of the guests besides setting up the joint control room of all concerned departments at the venue.

Doordarshan will cover the event live for the larger audience in the Valley and the country.

However, the event is certain to make a loaded political statement with Sami’s illustrious Pakistani profile and the Afghan lineage playing too in the background of his world-class music.

Son of Arshad Sami Khan, a former Pakistani Air Force pilot who reportedly fought in 1965 war with India and was awarded with the Sitara-e-Jurat for his services, Sami is now a proud Indian who hoists the Indian flag on his residence in Mumbai.

Incidentally, his mother Naureen Khan hails from J&K. So unlike Zubin Mehta or for that matter even Salman Ahmad of Junoon, Sami brings with him to Kashmir not only his musical prowess but also a political message which can have both a constructive and a problematic resonance in today’s Kashmir.

So, it will also be very important as to what Sami will have to say about his own feelings on his first visit to the Valley.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 6 October 2017, 18:39 IST