German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner Tuesday supervised the arrangements for an upcoming classical music concert in Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Steiner visited the Shalimar Bagh the famous garden built by Mughal emperor on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar the venue for Sept. 7 concert to monitor progress of work ahead of the high- profile show. He was accompanied by officials from the local government.
Hundreds of workers were seen busy erecting makeshift stage and making arrangements for the show. The officials have restricted the movement of civilians inside the garden and work was being done amid tight security arrangements.
The German Embassy in New Delhi with the support of local and federal Indian government is organizing the program Kashmir Concert - the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir (feelings for Kashmir) to allow celebrated conductor of classical music Zubin Mehta to conduct the Bavarian State Orchestra.
Mehta is an Indian born international icon of classical music. Officials say 1,500 guests from Kashmir and beyond are expected to listen to the timeless music of Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky to be played by Mehta and the Bavarian State Orchestra (Bayerische Staatsorchester) from Munich.
Separatists opposing Indian rule in restive region urged German embassy to call of the concert, fearing such an activity would have an adverse effect on the disputed nature of Indian-controlled Kashmir. A number of activists, writers and academics wrote to the German embassy in Delhi asking them to call off the concert.
"Legitimizing an occupation via a musical concert is completely unacceptable. Art as propaganda, as abundantly documented, was put to horrific use in Nazi Germany," reads the letter sent to the German embassy. "We are sure you will understand that we cannot welcome anything even remotely analogous in Jammu and Kashmir."
Even the grand mufti (religious scholar) Basher-ud-Din suggested German embassy should give up the idea of organizing concert in disputed region.
Realizing German embassy would not cancel the show, the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Geelani has called for protests on Friday and a complete shutdown on Saturday the day Mehta is going to perform.
"We have tradition of hosting tourists and we are not against Germany," said Geelani on Monday. "We are against the show because it is being conducted in beautiful prison called Kashmir. In 2004, the European Union called Kashmir a beautiful prison and supported the right to self-determination. Today they can't tell us that all is normal here and let us listen to music."
Steiner's Tuesday visit to Srinagar to oversee preparations was an indication the German embassy would go ahead with the program.
Meanwhile, the rights activists are scheduled to stage a parallel musical show Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir (the reality of Kashmir) to overshadow Mehta's concert. The activists would be performing in Srinagar's Municipal Park.
Khuram Parvez, a noted human rights activist and one of the organizers of the parallel show termed German ambassador's move an "eyewash".
"I see this as a pretentious attempt to empathize with Kashmiris. Both German embassy and Zubin Mehta should understand the reality of Kashmir and then only can they have the feelings," said Parvez. "Our show will be a tribute to resilience and struggle of Kashmir."
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from British rule, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir. Indian-controlled Kashmir has been reeling under conflict and violence since 1989. A guerrilla war is going on between militants and Indian troops stationed in the region.
The region is considered as one of the highest militarized zones in the world. Officially India does not reveal actual number of its troops deployed in India-controlled Kashmir. Rights groups say India has deployed more than 700,000 troopers and paramilitary troopers in the region to fight militants.
The region's chief minister Omar Abdullah has backed the concert and said Kashmir issue was not so weak that a music concert would affect its status.