Security personnel patrol Shalimar Garden, the venue for Zubin Mehta’s concert, in Srinagar on Thursday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Sept. 5: The Omar Abdullah government has issued an order that will virtually force thousands living around the venue of Zubin Mehta’s concert this Saturday to stay indoors for security reasons.
The order says people living near the venue, Shalimar Garden on the banks of the Dal Lake, should “travel before 1300 hours on the day of the function,” virtually asking them not to step out after 1pm.
An official spokesperson said two key roads, Boulevard and Foreshore (a 15km stretch), that lead to the venue shall be “free from traffic movement” after 1pm.
Sources said visiting dignitaries and security personnel alone would be allowed to move around in the area after that time.
The residents have been asked to contact traffic officers in case of emergencies after the deadline. The show is scheduled for the evening.
“The (Shalimar) garden was closed today to visitors. Sharpshooters have taken positions in and around the garden and all roads leading to venue have been sanitised,” an official said. Eyewitnesses said helicopters were hovering around.
The curbs on movement come against the backdrop of opposition to the concert from separatists and civil society groups.
The separatists have called a shutdown on Saturday and some little-known militant groups have threatened disruptions.
The separatists claim such concerts will “legitimise occupation” and portray everything as normal in Kashmir.
But German ambassador Michael Steiner, who is organising the show, has insisted there is nothing political about the show and said it was for Kashmiris.
“My wife and myself are hosting this event. It is funded mainly by private benevolent sponsors. It’s purely cultural and does not alter the political positions of Germany and the EU on Kashmir,” Steiner in a recent open letter addressed to Kashmiris.
The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which is organising a parallel concert Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir (reality of Kashmir) to counter Zubin’s Ehsaas-e-Kashmir (feel of Kashmir), claimed the Shalimar Gardens show will have few Kashmiris.
Khurram Parvez, a spokesperson, claimed only 202 out of 1,858 invitees to the Zubin show are “supposedly civilians” from the state and the rest are outsiders.
“The German ambassador is misleading people by calling it an event for the people of J&K,” Parvez said.