Amid growing resentment among the civil society members against music maestro Zubin Mehta’s concert in Kashmir, German ambassador Michael Steiner and wife Eliese Steiner took stock of the venue at Srinagar’s Mughal garden Shalimar Bagh on Tuesday morning.
At 11:30 am, the duo reached the 17th century terraced garden Shalimar Bagh, around 10 km away from the city centre Lal Chowk. The couple spent an hour to take stock of the arrangements with a German technical team.
The ambassador addressed the concerns brought up by the floriculture department. The venue is designed to avoid any damage to the garden or the monument.
A pre-fabricated 70 by 50 feet podium is being created on the second terrace with 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 artists,” said a senior official, who accompanied the ambassador to the garden.
The organisers have decided to have three separate seating arrangements at the centre of 12.4 hectares 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 the Diwan-e-Aman also carried out for the event.
Around 1,500 people --- 1000 local invitations and 500 outsiders, which include more than a dozen union ministers and politicians --- are scheduled to attend the concert, which will start around 5pm.
With the garden all decked up, flamboyant musician Mehta is set to play Bavarian State Orchestra. Around 100 artists will fly from Germany to India along with instruments in special planes to make first such musical concert a success in Kashmir.
Built by Mughal emperor Jehangir and expanded by Shah Jahan later, historians say the garden would always resonate with music during the Mughal period. Till late 60s, musical nights, Shab-e-Shalimar (Night at Shalimar), would be organised by the government.
However, the Mehta’s event has run into rough weather with separatists and the civil society members up in arms against the concert.
While the civil society is organising a rival concert Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir 10 km away from the venue “to highlight real sufferings of people”, hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for a shutdown. In the wake of shutdown call, security has been beefed up further.
The Coalition of Civil Society has also asked local sponsor, J&K Bank, to withdraw from the event.
“It is a matter of grave 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 the society and people of this state,” said the CCS statement.
Kashmir University Students Union has also opposed the event.