Zee Media Bureau/ Deepak Nagpal
Srinagar: Security has been tightened in the Kashmir Valley, especially here, in the wake of Saturday’s planned concert by the Bavarian State Orchestra and renowned Indian-born conductor Zubin Mehta.
The prime concern for the security forces is to keep visitors safe, in the wake of calls by separatists to call off the event which they claim “legitimises Indian rule in Kashmir”.
Mehta, on his part, is unfazed and says the concert will go ahead.
"Let the music speak for itself. It will happen, and will be broadcast across 24 European countries. You`ll see it on Doordarshan," he told a leading Indian English daily from Munich.
The concert is the first of its kind in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and will see an audience of 1,500 guests, including ministers and diplomats.
The location: Mughal-era terraced garden on the banks of the picturesque Dal Lake.
The concert, organised by the German Embassy in India, aims to "reach the hearts of the Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement", said Germany’s Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner.
The controversy over the concert, ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’ (the feel of Kashmir), is bizarre, especially in Kashmir which has been a land of poets, singers and musicians for ages.
The 90-minute concert of the Bavarian State Orchestra, which would be telecast live in over 50 countries.
Among those opposing the concert are prominent separatist leaders, the local Grand Mufti and civil society members.
While hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani sees the event as an attempt to give legitimacy to “Indian rule” in Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq of the moderate Hurriyat group believes the money should instead be spent on education, healthcare and other needs of the Kashmiri people.
Grand Mufti Basher-ud-Din, who is not new to controversies, echoes Geelani’s views. He says holding the concert in a "disputed land would convey a wrong signal internationally... (that) Kashmiris have enough prosperity and leisure to attend an event like this".
Some civil society members have also opposed the event: "Germany must accept the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir and recognise the pain and legitimate political and legal struggle of its people."
The government, on the other hand, is adamant on holding the concert. Government sources said calling off the event would send out a disturbing signal.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too has made his views clear. He said: “Everyone has political views but music is in our culture. To present it (music) as outside Kashmiriyat is not right.”
In response, Geelani has called for a complete shutdown in the Kashmir Valley on September 7.