Zubin Mehta's Kashmir Concert Brings Threats
A peace concert on Saturday by Indian-born composer Zubin Mehta and the 100-strong Bavarian State Orchestra has run into controversy.
Islamists and separatists have come out strongly against the concert, to be attended by 1500 guests, including ministers and diplomats, at the famous Shalimar Bagh gardens in Srinagar with the backdrop of the Dal lake.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a separatist leader in Kashmir, has called for a general strike and says it sends wrong signals to the world that all is well in disputed Kashmir.
While moderate separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a hereditary Kashmiri religious and political leader, has said: "Kashmir is not peaceful enough to hold such concerts."
One news agency received a joint statement from Al Nasireen, Shohada brigade and Farzandan-e-Millat, all little-known militant outfits, threatening to attack the show.
Security officials have said these organisations act as fronts for the Pakistan- based militant organisation Hizbul Mujahedeen.
Inspector General of Police, A.G. Mir, assured foolproof security for the concert and says the police are verifying the threats.
Paramilitary forces are taking no chances in Srinagar, which already has a large police presence. Preparations started weeks ago and the whole area has been sanitised by security forces.
A civil society group called the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society has organised a parallel concert, Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir, some six miles away at the Lal Chowk's Municipal Park. But security clearance has not yet been given.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has taken personal interest in the concert, said: "Everyone has political views but music is in our culture. To present it (music) as outside Kashmiriyat is not right."
The Bavarian State Orchestra will plays works by Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky.
Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since 1947 when the British left.
The countries have fought three wars and there have been skirmishes over the Siachen glacier in Kashmir.
A separatist movement in the valley began in the 1970s and continues to date.