Zubin Mehta (centre) addresses the audience during the ‘Ehaas-Kashmir’ concert with the Bavarian State Orchestra at the historic Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar, yesterday.
SRINAGAR: Celebrated conductor Zubin Mehta led the Bavarian State Orchestra in a classical music concert yesterday in Kashmir despite strong objections from separatist leaders.
The heavily guarded event was staged in the sprawling Mughal-era Shalimar Gardens on the banks of picturesque Dal Lake in conflict-scarred Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar.
“Everybody on the subcontinent will agree with me that this is where it (the concert) should be,” the Mumbai-born Mehta said, referring to the beautiful setting with the Himalayan mountains in the background.
“I have waited and dreamt of this moment,” Mehta, 77, a former director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, told the audience in the bright late afternoon sunshine before taking up his baton.
Some 1,500 guests, including government ministers and diplomats, listened raptly to strains of Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky at the concert by organised by Indian Kashmir’s state tourism department and the German embassy in New Delhi.
While the Shalimar Gardens event was an invitation-only affair, Mehta said he hoped to return to Kashmir and give a concert where “everybody can come”.
The concert — named “Ehsaas-e-Kashmir” or “Feelings for Kashmir” — was televised around the world.
It went ahead despite demands by separatists for its cancellation on grounds it would legitimise alleged “state repression” in the insurgency-hit region.
The concert was staged against the backdrop of a rise in bloodshed in the territory where there has been a wave of clashes between militants and security forces in recent weeks.
Police said four men were shot dead earlier yesterday in Shopian town by troops.
Indian media said the men were suspected of attempting to attack a security camp but officials would not comment on the reports. Residents described the men as civilians who were shot by troops as they rode past the security camp on a motorcycle.
Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah told the concert audience that Kashmir was a “troubled” land “yearning for peace”.
“But for a few hours let us allow the music to lift our spirits and dream of a peaceful tomorrow,” Abdullah said.
Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani called a strike yesterday to protest the concert. Shops, businesses and colleges closed in several Kashmir cities.