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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Countdown to Zubin concert: security tight in Kashmir

Toufiq Rashid & Peerzada Ashiq , Hindustan Times  Srinagar, September 07, 2013
First Published: 00:37 IST(7/9/2013) | Last Updated: 14:17 IST(7/9/2013)

Can art provide an answer to the tragedies of life? Renowned Indian-born music conductor Zubin Mehta certainly thinks so.

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Political discourse, militant threats, protests and tension — all appeared to fade as Mehta, who hit the town on Friday evening, calmly declared, "Kashmir is beautiful, I am happy to be here… My music will provide the answers. Let the music play."

On the eve of the concert, the warring parties, though, did not appear to share the conviction.

The tension over the show - seen as Germany's endorsement of the situation in Kashmir - has reached a peak.

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The separatists are ready with detailed plans of protests and shutdowns and the civil society groups have received the authorities' green signal for its parallel protest concert. The government, on the other hand, is under considerable pressure on the security front.

Shalimar Bagh, the venue of Ehsaas-e-Kashmir concert, has been sealed. Vehicles are being checked, people frisked and even the movement of boats in Dal Lake has been severely curtailed.

The protests, meanwhile, picked pace. Practically overnight, "Go Zubin Go" graffitis mushroomed across the city. Students held a demonstration at Kashmir University and Asiya Andrabi, chief of separatist organisation Dukhtaran-e-Millat, declared, "Mehta is the director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Israel is the country responsible for the killing of innocent Muslims."

Efforts are on to create a disturbance during the concert - Andrabi has asked the locals to raise anti-India slogans on loudspeakers.

The mainstream political parties are conspicuous by their silence. The two main parties of the valley - National Conference and the PDP - have refused to comment, saying they have no wish to "politicise the issue".

"We believe there is no reason to oppose the event," said NC's Tanvir Sadiq. Insisting the matter has been politicised, PDP spokesperson Naeem Aktar added, "The show would be forgotten in two days, but things would stay the same."

Bollywood actor Gul Panag, who would be hosting the show, had words of hope: "Music transcends disputes, goes beyond political and ideological boundaries, and encourages hope. This concert will get Kashmir into limelight for something positive."

Let the music play.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has accused separatist groups of double standards for opposing the concert in Srinagar by Zubin Mehta, saying no one protested when Pakistani band Junoon performed in the city.

"These (separatists) people are selective. This is not the first music concert in Kashmir. If music is anti-Islam, against the issue of Kashmir, how come Junoon came and performed here," he said.

"Nobody raised any voices on that ... Then there should have been a shutdown for Junoon also," he told reporters after reviewing arrangements for Mehta's concert on Saturday at Shalimar Mughal Garden on the banks of Dal Lake.

The Pakistani band had performed in the city in May 2008.

Omar said the controversy about the concert has been blown out of proportion.


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