Chartered aircraft, BMW cars brought in just to ferry VVIPs, Rs 3.6 crore spent on renovating the Shalimar Garden venue of the concert, the German ambassador almost camping in Srinagar, hundreds of security personnel deployed and the state administration attending to every detail of the 90-minute concert are some of the elements that even common Kashmiris have not failed to notice.

Security checkpoints have been set up at the Boulevard Road and the Foreshore Road, which leads to the venue of the concert. Vehicles are being checked and occupants frisked as a part of the security drill, which is likely to get more stringent.

The concert would be telecast live in 104 countries; never before has any cultural or sports event in Kashmir has attracted so much attention. Corporate honchos, ambassadors of European countries in India, film stars, bureaucrats and police and military officers are included in the list of invitees - 1,500 people, 700 of them from outside Jammu and Kashmir.

Private houses behind the Shalimar Garden were included in the elaborate security drill connected with the concert and commandos would be stationed in them to secure the venue, a security officer here said.

Scores of CCTV cameras have been installed in and around the concert venue.The road from Srinagar International Airport, where Zubin Mehta and invitees from outside the state started arriving on Thursday to Shalimar Garden on the banks of the Dal Lake would remain out of bounds for all private and public transport from Friday till the concert ends on Saturday evening.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who visited the Shalimar Garden two days back to check the arrangements, said that the concert would not change the reality of Kashmir and those opposing it were trying to derive political mileage out of a cultural event.

Separatist leaders have called the concert an exercise by India to give international legitimacy to its ‘rule’ in Kashmir. Some lesser known guerrilla groups like the Al-Nasreen, the Farzandan-e-Milat and the Shuda Brigade have threatened to target foreigners in Kashmir if the concert goes ahead.

A few civil society members have announced a parallel 'Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir' (The truth about Kashmir) concert in Srinagar at noon on Saturday called to protest against Zubin Mehta's event being named 'Ehsas-e-Kashmir' (The feel of Kashmir). German Ambassador Michael Steiner has said he would attend the parallel concert if invited. After his statement, the organizers of the parallel event said that they had sent invitations to the ambassadors of all European countries, including Germany, to attend the concert, which would showcase music, songs and a photo exhibition on the pain and sufferings of the people.

The authorities in Srinagar said that all necessary steps would be taken to maintain law and order on Saturday. Such official statements in the past have often meant imposition of restrictions so that anti-social elements are prevented from disturbing the peace. Whether or not these steps include disallowing the parallel concert needs to be watched.

Omar Abdullah hits out at ‘double standard’ separatists

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday accused separatist groups of having double standards towards voicing their opposition to a concert in Srinagar, saying no one protested when Pakistani band Junoon performed in the city. The state’s biggest ever musical extravaganza in the state is set to feature renowned conductor Zubin Mehta.
"These (separatists) people are selective. This is not the first music concert in Kashmir. If music is anti-Islam, against the issue of Kashmir, how come Junoon came and performed here," he said.
"Nobody raised any voice on that. Then there should have been a shutdown for Junoon also," he told reporters after reviewing arrangements for Mehta's concert on Saturday at Shalimar Mughal Garden on the banks of Dal Lake.
The Pakistani band had performed in the city in May 2008. Omar said that the controversy about the concert has been blown out of proportion.
"We are obviously very selective in what we want to oppose and what we want to support. As far as I am concerned, this is a concert that is exposing the people of the state to this type of music and it also exposes the larger world to Jammu and Kashmir. This cannot be a bad thing," he added.
Separatists have opposed the holding of the concert in which Zubin Mehta will conduct the Bavarian State Orchestra, saying it will be used by Government of India to ‘cover up the human rights violations and weaken the Kashmir issue.’
Omar said that since there were security and other issues involved with the event, he ‘felt it necessary to go and see myself how things are.’


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