Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kashmir set for landmark Zubin Mehta concert

Kashmir set for landmark Zubin Mehta concert

Vineet Khare reports from Srinagar on Zubin Mehta's Kashmir concert

Renowned Indian conductor Zubin Mehta is set to conduct a concert by the Bavarian State Orchestra in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Hosted by the German embassy in the Shalimar Gardens outside Srinagar, it is set to be attended by 1,500 guests.
Zubin Mehta has said he hopes "to spread the message of peace with this performance".
But separatists are protesting against the concert which they say legitimises Delhi's rule in the disputed region.
Veteran separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for a day-long strike on Saturday. Markets were closed and Srinagar ground to a halt, says the BBC's Vineet Khare in the city.
Amid heavy security, roads leading the Sher-e-Kashmir park, where a parallel protest concert had been planned, have been blocked.
Khurram Parvez, one of the protest concert's organisers, said participants were not being allowed to enter the venue, and that their stage had been confiscated.
"Legitimising an occupation via a musical concert is completely unacceptable," he told the BBC.
'Reach the hearts'
Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has seen an armed insurgency against Indian rule since 1989.


The venue of Zubin Mehta's Saturday concert is the spectacular 15th Century Shalimar Gardens, which has the Himalayan mountains as its backdrop.
Mr Mehta has described the concert - named Ehsaas-e-Kashmir or Feelings for Kashmir - as "a dream come true".
An Indian-born Parsi, he will be accompanied by the Bavarian State Orchestra and 1,500 people have been invited, including government ministers and diplomats.
But Kashmiri separatists and activists say they do not want the event to take place in Kashmir.
The German embassy says that in the months leading up to the concert, the ambassador met and consulted a large number of people in Kashmir to make it an "inclusive event".
In recent years violence in Kashmir has abated from its peak in the 1990s, but the causes of the insurgency are still far from resolved.
Speaking in the Indian capital, Delhi, a day before the concert, Mehta said: "I hope to have the blessings of the people as music is the only language I know and hope to spread the message of peace with this performance."
The German ambassador said it aimed to "reach the hearts of the Kashmiris with a message of hope and encouragement".
The concert will be broadcast live on dozens of television stations around the world, reports say.
Workers in the Shalimar Gardens spent Friday giving finishing touches to the huge stage, checking the lights, sound systems and dozens of fountains.
Security is tight in Srinagar with a large number of police and paramilitaries deployed on the roads leading up to the concert venue.
Checkpoints have been put up near the Dal Lake and all vehicles are being checked and people are being frisked before being allowed in.
Kashmir's police chief Abdul Ghani Mir told the BBC that all security measures were in place for the concert.