Renowned music conductor Zubin Mehta is set to perform in Srinagar on Saturday amid heavy security arrangements, despite some civil society groups opposing the concert due to alleged political overtones.
The concert is being organised by the German Embassy in collaboration with the Centre and the state government. German ambassador to India Michael Steiner tried to reach out to Kashmiris on Thursday.
“My wife and I are hosting this event. It is funded mainly by private benevolent sponsors. It's purely cultural and does not alter the political position of Germany and the EU on Kashmir,” said Steiner.
“At the same time, this concert has the potential to make the world look at the complex realities of Kashmir: its breathtaking beauty as well as the many challenges you, the Kashmiris, face in daily life.”
Several Kashmiris remained unconvinced though. "Germany cannot ignore the political nature of the problem in Kashmir and gloss over the suffering,” said Class-12 student Peerzada Ibtihaj.
“The security diversions and random frisking are probably not what the German ambassador intended when he first said the concert was for the people of Kashmir.”
Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for a general strike in the region on Saturday, while a little-known militant group has threatened to attack the guests if the concert takes place.
Mumbai-born Mehta, 77, will conduct Munich’s Bavarian State Orchestra before an estimated 1,500 guests, including ministers and diplomats, at the terraced Mughal garden Shalimar Bagh.
Indian note in German concert
Mehta's concert will have an Indian musical note. A group of 20 young instrumentalists is preparing a sufi-folk Kashmiri music ensemble composed by santoor player Abhay Rustum Sopori, the son of legendary santoor maestro Pt Bhajan Sopori.
Mehta's orchestra and the Kashmiri musicians will meet for a rehearsal in Srinagar on Friday. Mehta has approved the Kashmiri musical piece and would be conducting it before classics by Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky.
"Its a great moment for Kashmiri music. I and my group feel honoured to share the stage with the great maestro Zubin Mehta," said Abhay Sopori, 34. "We have been rehearsing from August 30 here in Kashmir and have send our recording to Munich. They have in turn send their recording to us. This is a great oppurtunity for the world to know Kashmiri music," he said.
Parallel concert yet to get permission
Some civil society groups, however, are opposed to Mehta's event and plan a parallel concert, Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir, on Saturday in protest against Mehta’s concert. The protest concert is scheduled to be held 10km away from the venue of Mehta’s concert at Lal Chowk’s Municipal Park.
Several civil society groups have applied for a permission to hold the protest concert in the wake of Section 144, which disallows assembly of more than five people, being implemented in Srinagar.