Amid growing resentment among civil society members against Zubin Mehta’s concert in Kashmir, German ambassador Michael Steiner and his wife Eliese on Tuesday took stock of arrangements at Shalimar Bagh, the venue for the event.
At 11.30am, the couple reached the 17th century terraced garden, 10 km from the city centre of Lal Chowk. The two spent an hour there along with a German technical team. The ambassador addressed concerns raised by the floriculture department. The venue has been designed to avoid any damage to the garden or the monument.
A pre-fabricated 70x50 foot podium is being created on the second terrace with the Mughal-era Diwan-i-Khas or Black Pavilion in the backdrop. A girdle tied to two long poles will be used for lighting and sound under the shades of majestic-rowed Chinar trees.
“The line of fountains (spread over 1.6 km) will not work on the day of performance because the flow and its noise may distract artistes,” said a senior official, who accompanied the ambassador.
The organisers have decided to have three separate seating arrangements at the centre of 12.4-hectare garden. The central platform will come up over the central water channel.
The government has already restored chaddar or falls from terraces. Even lamp spaces have been restored. Shingle work of Diwan-e-Khas has been reworked and minor renovation of Diwan-e-Aam has also been carried out for the event.
Nearly 1,500 people – 1,000 local invitations and 500 outsiders, including more than 12 union ministers and politicians – are scheduled to attend the concert, which will start at 5pm on September 7.
As many as 100 artistes will fly from Germany to India along with instruments in a special plane to make the first such musical concert a success in Kashmir.
Built by Mughal emperor Jahangir and expanded by Shah Jahan later, historians say Shalimar Bagh would always resonate with music during the Mughal period. Till the late ’60s, musical nights, Shab-e-Shalimar (Night at Shalimar), would be organised by the government.
While the civil society is organising a rival concert, Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir, 10km from the venue “to highlight real suffering of people”, security has been tightened in the wake of Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s shutdown call.
The Coalition of Civil Society (CCS) has also asked local sponsor J&K Bank to withdraw from the event. “It is a matter of concern and hurt for people to know the bank is one of the sponsors. It is an institution vested essentially with public trust and not just money for which its leadership remains ever accountable towards society and people of this state,” said the CCS statement.
The Kashmir University Students Union has also opposed the event.