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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Zubin Mehta’s show in Srinagar is ‘very much on’

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, August 28, 2013
First Published: 21:20 IST(28/8/2013) | Last Updated: 13:05 IST(29/8/2013)

When Mumbai-born celebrated music maestro Zubin Mehta spoke about Kashmir, he had called it one of his unfulfilled dreams to conduct a concert here. The dream concert will happen on September 7, in spite of opposition from separatists and religion alike.

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Mehta's will play 'Ehasas-e-Kashmir' on the historical Mughal garden, Shalimar Bagh. A private plane from Germany's Bavaria will carry around 100 instruments and same number of players. The television rights have been given to media giants internationally and the show will be aired live in most Europe.

The 90-minute concert is likely to have 28 sponsors and is likely to be attended by 1,500 people, including 700 from outside the state.

The state government is taking no chances.

Inspector general of police in Kashmir, AG Mir denied there was a heightened security threat and said police will provide security as per the 'protocol' for such events. "We will try and provide foolproof security as we try and do whenever any such event takes place in the Valley."

Though Mir did not elaborate on the security measures likely to be taken, sources told Hindustan Times that the government is planning to sanitise the area in 3 km radius around the venue. Even the invitees will be required to report few kilometres before the venue, from where they will be ferried under security for the concert.

Sources say the government has allocated a few crores for renovation of the garden as well as the roads leading to the venue.

Separatists, including hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have shown displeasure saying "Kashmir not peaceful enough to hold such concerts". After opposition from separatists, Kashmir's grand Mufti Bashir-ud-Din on Tuesday also appealed to German ambassador Michael Steiner to reconsider holding the Zubin Mehta concert in the Valley.

The idea of the concert was floated about a year ago when Mehta visited Delhi and said he would "cancel all appointments to play in Kashmir". The announcement, however, came in early this month when the state tourism minister, Ghulam Ahmed Mir, flanked by officials from the German embassy made the announcement.

The opposition started after the announcement. "Without any bias, we oppose any such move harmful for the Kashmir cause. It is our democratic right and none of the civilised nation can deny this fact," said Geelani.

Mirwaiz soon joined the chorus. Speaking to Hindustan Times on Wednesday, he, however, softened his stand and said Hurriyat doesn't oppose but has just "put forward a different point of view".

"There is no denying the fact that Kashmir is known for its music, culture, poetry and fine arts but such things are good only when there is peace. Kashmir is an active conflict zone, people are getting killed every day and there is tension on the border. Besides such things don't appeal to common Kashmiris," said Mirwaiz Umar.

"We don't oppose it and never said will not let it happen, but are pointing forward a different point of view. If Germany wants to invest they can do it in health and education sectors," he added.

Reiterating the separatists' stand, Mufti asked the German embassy to support education and healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir instead.

Ironically, grand Mufti made news last month after a video showing him enjoying a musical evening went viral on internet.

The opposition, however, has come as no surprise, for it was after he issued a decree against an all-girl Kashmiri band that led to the trio abandoning their musical pursuit.

While restraining from giving any religious diktat on the concert, Mufti said, "I had decided not to comment on the forthcoming musical concert in Srinagar and leave the decision to the people whether they approve of such activities or not. Since Kashmir is a disputed area, the holding of such a concert would definitely send a wrong signal to the outside world."

German ambassador Michael Steiner, however, had called it a cultural tribute to "Kashmir and its warm-hearted people". "September will not change the world. The event is being organised by the German embassy. The invitation will come from me and my wife. This is not an event related to tourism. I know the limits."

"It will give them (Kashmiris) joy. Let the power of music play its part. This is not a solution to anything. This is not a peace concert. This is purely a cultural event," he added.


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