M A I N   N E W S

When Kashmir came alive in rainbow colours 
Days of despair are over, says Governor as J&K fest begins
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 2
Not everyday would you catch Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, take pictures of performing artistes with his cell. But today he spared a lot of time doing that, as Kashmir came alive in rainbow colours, shedding its blood-stained image for a stunning, bright look, which swept everyone gathered at the India International Centre off their feet.

The occasion was the opening of a three-day Jammu and Kashmir festival at the IIC, which played host to a bold, new Kashmir, courtesy artistes who told the story of its resurgence, obliterating an ominous sadness that often accompanies references to the Valley.

The Chief Minister was clearly on a mission: that of reintroducing his state to the elite of Delhi in a way that they see it in positive light and not from the prism of security as has been the case for long.

“There’s more to Kashmir than the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It’s a human story of resilience; a story of people trying to reach out to you. So when you plan to travel, we hope you will look northwards. Despite our travails, we remain an attractive destination,” Omar said as he joined Governor N.N. Vohra and his father and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah in inaugurating the cultural bonanza.

Many in the gathering were Kashmiri Pandits, who have long lost touch with their land. They sat moist-eyed through a nostalgic evening as musicians, dancers and folklorists from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh laid before them a feast to savour.

The toast of the inaugural event was the symphony which percussion artistes from the state created with traditional instruments - santoor, rabab, sitar and sarangi from Kashmir; dhol, flute and Narasingha from Jammu and Nat and Saz-e-khas from Ladakh.

As they played the mesmerising tunes of popular Kashmiri folk song “Bhumbro…” brought to fame in a Hritik Roshan starrer Bollywood film, the audiences broke into rapturous applause, which remained a common feature throughout the evening as variegated performances followed.

So you had a Ladakhi musical presentation glorifying the monasteries, seasons and kings; a traditional Chakhri (instrumental music) act presented by Mohammad Abdullah Shah from Kashmir and a Dogri sequence called Jagerna, where young female dancers told the tale of Kashmir’s beauty, setting the tone for the next two days which will showcase several aspects of the state’s history - from its rich cultural traditions to its historical and archealogical legacy.

The idea behind the festival as articulated by Governor Vohra today is changing the discourse about Kashmir, which is talked about only for the unfortunate events it witnesses.

“It is saddening that we only read about the unfortunate events. They happen but their frequency is now one hundredth of what it used to be. The level of discourse on Kashmir is worrying and depressing. Jammu and Kashmir has so much to offer. It has a fascinating history; it is virtually the cradle of civilisation. Some very significant thoughts took birth here,” said N.N. Vohra, who proposed the idea of a festival in the first place. But it was stuck following last summer’s violence in the Valley.

The days of despair over, the idea is back. “We thought it would be worthwhile to speak about the myths surrounding Kashmir here in Delhi and present to the people the paintings, music, and cuisine of the state,” Vohra said.

The Chief Minister couldn’t agree less. He listed the recent milestones to firm up Kashmir’s peace story. “Violence in the Valley is less than 10 pc of what it was in 2001. We have conducted successful panchayat elections and have had an unprecedented tourist inflow of 8 lakh in Kashmir alone. The last peaceful panchayat elections happened when I was 13 years old. Today my son is that age. So you know what I am talking about,” Omar said.

His father Farooq Abdullah was not as enthusiastic though as he said, “The situation in our neighbourhood is very worrying. Nothing can be said.” But a few cautionary notes apart, the evening was all about the resurgence of new Kashmir where gun no longer rules the roost.

The Governor and the Chief Minister made their point well, and artistes drove it home. The festival was well begun with people like filmmaker ML Raina sitting in the audiences, clapping away to glory.





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