A soldier at the venue on Friday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Sept. 6: Zubin Mehta had said it was his “dream” to perform in Kashmir. He might not have known he would have to do so in a fortress.
The stage was set this evening for the Valley’s biggest musical extravaganza in recent history when Zubin takes the stage tomorrow evening under a security canopy that some old-timers said rivalled that of the build-up ahead of Independence Day and Republic Day.
“I am happy I am here,” Zubin said as he checked out preparations soon after he and his team landed here in a chartered flight.
Dozens of BMWs ferried the musicians to highly-security hotels on the banks of the Dal. German ambassador Michael Steiner, organising the show, has been camping in Srinagar for days.
Thousands of security personnel have been deployed across the Valley in the wake of a call by separatists for a shutdown. Sharpshooters have taken up positions in the area.
Tension increased after graffiti appeared overnight at several places asking Zubin to go back. The separatists have asked people near the venue, Shalimar Garden along the Dal, to raise pro-aazaadi slogans on speakers to drown out Zubin’s show.
The Omar Abdullah government has ordered residents near the venue not to move around after 1pm tomorrow.
Omar too visited the venue today. “Security will be talked about by the security guys. I had come to check things here,” the chief minister, who had earlier vowed to make the show a success, said.
But the show’s opponents kept up their campaign. Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel requesting her to visit Kashmir and witness what he dubbed the “oppression” by the security forces.
Another group that has lined up a parallel show to counter Zubin’s programme announced it had secured government approval with conditions.
Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir (reality of Kashmir), whose name contrasts with Zubin’s Ehsaas-e-Kashmir (feel of Kashmir), will be held at Sher-e-Kashmir Park, several kilometres from Shalimar Garden.
The J&K Coalition of Civil Society, which aims to highlight the “sufferings and pain of Kashmiris”, said it had permission to start the two-hour event at 4.30pm — around the time Zubin will take the stage. It had sought to start from noon.
“We feel they have deliberately asked us to start at 4.30pm since at that time the media will be focused on Zubin. Plus, it is an attempt to prevent the ambassadors from visiting our show because they will be at the Zubin concert”, said Khurram Parvez of the J&K Coalition.