Srinagar, Kashmir: The controversial music concert by the world famous conductor, Zubin Mehta, in the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir on September 7, has turned the region into a fortress, with sharp shooters, barricades, frisking, and at least 25 additional companies of paramilitary forces deployed in the city.
The concert is organized by the German embassy in India, with the support of government of India and the Jammu and Kashmir, along with different corporate sponsoring the heavy expenditure. In the ninety-minute concert, the audience is selective, only those who are invited. No one else will be allowed. Among the 1500 audience, 700 are supposed to be from outside the state and rest from the government and several celebrities.
“Average Kashmiri not concerned about Zubin Mehta concert. No politics attached to this. Where in the world has a Zubin Mehta concert been for the ordinary?” Omar Abdullah, chief minister of the state, told CNN-IBN. The Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory between Indian and Pakistan since 1947. More than 600,000 Indian troops are stationed in the Indian side of the region, making it the world’s most militarized zone, where around 70,000 civilians have been killed, 8000 disappeared persons and thousands tortured since the armed uprising started in late 80s.
The concert, however, has been facing strong opposition from the pro-resistance groups and some members of the civil society – including journalists, activists, academics and artists. The civil society members also organized a parallel cultural event, Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir (Reality of Kashmir), on the same day, in a public park.
Earlier today, the organizers of Haqeeqat e Kashmir informed that more than three thousand people will be participating in the event. The data was provided by the organizers in response to the enquiries about the programme raised in a letter from the administration. The group however, denied receiving any such letter. “We are reading about the letter from media,” Khurram Parvez, one of the organizers, said.
After waiting for a week, the government today allowed the parallel event. Though, the permission has been given with some conditions, the organizers said. “We have given the permission for the event. It will take place between 4:30 and 6:30,” divisional commissioner Shailendra Kumar told Hindustan Times.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has deployed its Quick Action in and around Shalimar area, near the Shalimar garden, the venue of the concert, to deal with any eventuality. While talking to a local news agency, Public Relations Officer, CRPF, Kishor Prasad said that apart from deploying 25 companies, CRPF has created some 25 check-points for frisking purposes in the city.
“Our men are doing random checking and frisking of the people. The security has been beefed in the same way as we beef it up on special occasions like 15th of August or the arrival of Prime Minister,” Prasad said.
He said that the CRPF is taking all possible measures to thwart any protest during the visit of Zubin Mehta in Kashmir. “We have been working in coordination with the police. Shalimar and its adjacent areas have already been sealed while security men have even been deployed inside the houses and on roof-tops,” he added.