SRINAGAR: Renowned conductor Zubin Mehta yesterday said he wanted to bring peace to Indian Kashmir through music, after separatist leaders demanded a controversial concert planned for the disputed region be scrapped.
The Mumbai-born Mehta is set to go ahead with the concert in the region’s main city of Srinagar this evening. It is expected to attract a 1,500-strong audience, including government ministers and diplomats.
Security is tight in Srinagar for the concert organised by the German ambassador to India, following demands from separatists for its cancellation, saying it legitimises Indian “state repression”.
Mehta, a former director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, said: “We are only playing from our hearts tomorrow”.
“That’s all we want to do. We must never underestimate the power of inner peace that music brings,” he was quoted by CNN-IBN’s website as saying.
Mehta made the comments as he received a cultural harmony award yesterday from Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in a ceremony in the capital.
Mehta will conduct the Bavarian State Orchestra in works by Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky for an invited audience at the sprawling Shalimar Mughal gardens on the banks of the picturesque Dal Lake.
Hundreds of police and military were patrolling the streets of Srinagar, while metal detectors have been set up and sniffer dogs deployed near the venue, police and witnesses said.
Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has called for a strike in the tense region today to protest the concert.
“Any sort of international activity, be it political, diplomatic, cultural or sport will have an adverse effect on the disputed nature of Kashmir,” Geelani said.
Germany’s Ambassador Michael Steiner has defended the concert as “a wonderful cultural tribute to Kashmir and its warm-hearted and hospitable people”.