In a public park, cordoned by police and paramilitary forces, in the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, Kashmiris today countered the Zubin Mehta’s “peace” concert, with poetry recitations, singing, theater performances and slogans.
Under the large Chinaar trees, in the Municipal Park of Srinagar, the organizers of Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir (Reality of Kashmir) came around noon to start the preparations for the cultural event. The police barricades around the venue were not allowing anyone, except the journalists, to go toward the venue. Police allowed people in afternoon, an hour before 4.30 pm – the official permitted time for the event.
The park was filled with banners showing photographs of torture victims, disappeared persons, police beating youth, half-widows, protestors, and slogans. A makeshift stage was set up on one side of the park, with a large 26×12 feet multi-pictorial backdrop.
People started sitting on the chairs on the right of the stage and on ground on left of the stage. A large gathering swelled in and the event started with its spokesperson’s address. “The concert [haqeeqat-e-kashmir] is against Germany’s attempt to dilute disputed nature of Kashmir. We thank people for making it a success,” he said.
Just ten kilometers away from here, Music conductor, Zubin Mehta performed in the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir, under heavy security. Shalimar garden, the venue for the concert was restricted to the invitees and the troops only. Local residents in the Shalimar area were not allowed to move out. Sixty houses were occupied by police and paramilitary forces early in the morning, positioning themselves in the first and second floors. Sharp shooters were also deployed at some locations and in the houses.
“Army men entered into our house without any prior information. I had to lock myself and my two little children in the kitchen for whole day as my husband is not in town,” said Halima Bano, a resident of Shalimar.
People living around the boundary of the garden were not allowed to come out of their houses. Khursheed Ahmad, who lives close to the garden, was told by an army man that if anyone from his family moves out after 2 pm, they will be arrested on spot. Police also announced on loudspeakers telling people to remain indoors and not to move out.
In the protest event against Mehta; Poets, singers, artists and actors presented their art to the audience of 1000-1500 people. Two young rappers presented a song, “Resistance is a choice, it is gonna make some noise”. During every performance there were pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. A satire stand-up performance, locally called Ladishaw, was also performed.
The organizers said that it is the event of common Kashmiri who is suffering at the hands of India and breathe pain and agony. A few Kashmiri pundits from Delhi also joined the event. One of them, artist Inder Salim, also performed, expressing solidarity with the people.
Normal life in the region remained paralyzed in wake of the shutdown and restrictions imposed by the authorities on the occasion of Zubin Mehta’s concert. Curfew like situation prevailed in famous Boulevard Road while roads wore a deserted look 10 kilometers around the concert venue. Barbed wire barricades were set up at different entry points and security checking was intensified.
The day was not peaceful. Four youth were killed in Shopian when paramilitary forces opened fire in the area. Fourteen persons were injured in a grenade blast in Pulwama district and one person was injured when troopers opened fire at a car in Srinagar.