|Zubin Mehta at the concert in Srinagar on Saturday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Sept. 8: Four deaths in yesterday’s CRPF firing today prompted Valley separatists to demand an apology from Zubin Mehta and German ambassador Michael Steiner for holding the Srinagar concert.
The firing in Shopian, 50km from Srinagar, came during heightened tensions as the security forces fanned out across Kashmir to prevent any violence stemming from the separatist-sponsored shutdown against the government-backed concert.
“(The killings have) proved that the situation in Kashmir is grim. It is better for the German ambassador and Zubin Mehta to apologise and carry the message to the world that people in Kashmir are being brutally massacred by Indian forces,” Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani said.
The separatists had opposed Zubin’s concert, organised by Steiner, arguing such international events “legitimise Indian occupation” and paint a false picture of normality in the Valley.
The Bombay-born maestro, however, today tried to reach out to local critics of the concert saying he was their friend.
“Geelani Sahab hum to aapka dost hoon (I am your friend). You don’t believe it! I wish all of our opposition would have come and enjoyed the music,” Zubin, 77, said. “I am not only a Parsi, I am a Kashmiri too.”
He said his first identity was as an Indian citizen. “I should have brought my passport and showed it. There are people who think I am Israeli. That’s rubbish.”
Dream & paradox
Zubin expressed a wish that he acknowledged could never be fulfilled and, paradoxically, said he was “grateful” for that.
He said he “would love to have a house on top of the (Zabarwan) hills”, which formed the backdrop to his concert, but was “proud” that non-Kashmiris are not allowed to acquire property in the state.
“I am very proud that the government of India does not allow me as an Indian to buy property here. I am jealous of all those people who live on the shores of the Dal Lake. I respect the government for the fact that they have not made settlements here…. It (settlements) is a big word in the Middle East; I am very grateful that there are no settlements here, which has preserved the beauty of Kashmir,” he said.
The concert, however, came under criticism from an unexpected quarter today.
Nikolaus Bachler, general manager of the Bavarian State Orchestra, said the musicians had been under the impression they would be playing for the Kashmiri people and not at an “embassy concert” with restricted access.
“We were misled by the German embassy. We will raise this issue with the German government that art can’t be exploited by anyone, be it governments or by embassies or political groups,” he said.
“The musicians, all the 80, waived the fees for Kashmiri people and not for an elite event. Be sure this will be an issue in Germany.”
Ambassador Steiner said security considerations had kept the event small. “Kashmir is as it is. We could not at this juncture do it in a Woodstock form,” he told NDTV.
Life remained paralysed in the Valley today because of a curfew in some parts and a shutdown called by the separatists to protest the killings.