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Militant threat to Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar

September 04, 2013 16:24 IST

Militant threat to Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar

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Unfazed by opposition from separatists and threats from little-known militant groups, preparations are on in full swing for the 'Ehsaas-e-Kashmir' (Feel of Kashmir) music concert featuring world renowned music conductor Zubin Mehta in Srinagar on Saturday.

German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner, who is hosting the concert before a specially invited audience of 1,500 guests, is camping in Srinagar to oversee the preparations for for the event to be held in the famous Shalimar Garden built by Mughal Emperor Jehangir.

Steiner visited the venue where he was briefed about the security measures being put in place in view of threats issued by three less-known militant organisations against holding of the concert.

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Image: Maestro Zubin Mehta conducts an orchestra in Vienna
Photographs: Herwig Prammer/Reuters
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Mehta will share dais with several local musicians even as the Hurriyat's parallel concert called ‘Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir’ (Reality of Kashmir) to project the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir will be held not far away from Shalimar Garden.

The separatists claim that holding of Mehta's concert in a "conflict zone" will change the nature of Kashmir dispute.

Mehta's Bavarian orchestra will conduct a composition of Abhay Rustom Sopori, a santoor player who is the son of Kashmiri music legend Pandit Bhajan Sopori, before the Indian-origin conductor gets on with his orchestra.  Sopori's composition would have the theme ‘Tribute to Kashmir’.

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Image: A stage is being preapared for the concert at Shalimar Garden, Srinagar
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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Steiner was shown around the venue and briefed about the access control and other measures. He also inspected the podium where Mehta and his 100-strong orchestra will perform.

Mehta is scheduled to conduct Bavarian state orchestra and play composition of the 18th century composer Ludwig van Beethoven, considered a crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in western art music. He will also play compositions of Franz Joseph Haydn, the Austrian composer who is often called the ‘Father of the

Symphony’ and ‘Father of the String Quartet’, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the 19th Century Russian composer whose works included  symphonies,  concertos,  operas,  ballets, and chamber music. However, concerns over the security have emerged after little-known outfits -- Al Nasireen, Farzandan-e-Millat and Shuhda Brigade – on Tuesday threatened to target foreign tourists in Kashmir if the German embassy went ahead with the concert.

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Image: Despite opposition from separatist groups and militants the concert will go on as scheduled
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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The security grid has since been busy since been busy doing an assessment of the situation. A senior official said they are trying to locate the origin of the statement and also the strength of these three organisations in the valley.

The separatists have opposed the concert with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani saying it would affect the "disputed status" of Kashmir.

"India is going to use this event to project an image of normalcy and content in Kashmir to the international community," he said while appealing to the German envoy to reconsider the holding of the event. The Hurriyat hawk has called for a general strike on the day Mehta performs in Srinagar.

Moderate Hurriyat Conference headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and several other separatist groups had "advised" Stenier to use the money, to be spent on the concert, on improving the basic infrastructure in healthcare, roads and education sectors in the valley. The parallel concert being organised by the civil society concert is open to all artists and public and will be held at Municipal Park near Poloview in Srinagar.

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Image: 1,500 guests will attend the concert at Shalimar Garden
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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The German ambassador has expressed his willingness to attend the civil society event if invited by the organisers.  "Culture is always welcome. In case the cultural event at Municipal Park takes place, I would welcome to be invited," Steiner told reporters at Shalimar Garden.

Bengali artist Kabir Suman has composed a song to opposing the conduct of the orchestra in Kashmir and uploaded the video on a social networking site.

"Dear Zubin Mehta, will your music weep for the martyrs, 70,000 kashmiris killed? Will your music bring back the thousands disappeared in the shadows of the hills," Suman wrote in the song.

Shalimar Garden, built by Jehangir and expanded by his son Shah Jahan later, used to resonate with music during the Mughal period. Historians say musical nights were conducted in the garden till late 1960s.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chapter of INTACH has volunteered its services to the organisers for ensuring that the heritage garden does not suffer any damage during the concert. "We are providing the technical know-how to the organisers in ensuring that there is no irreversible damage to the heritage garden," state INTACH Convenor Saleem Beg said.


Image: Jammu and Kashmir Chapter of INTACH has volunteered its services to the organisers of the concert
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
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