I waited and dreamt of this moment all my life: Zubin

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September 7, 2013

SRINAGAR: Celebrated conductor Zubin Mehta led the Bavarian State Orchestra in a classical music concert Saturday in disputed Indian Kashmir despite strong objections from separatist leaders.

Indian born conductor, Zubin Mehta (C), stands after a performance during the ehaas-Kashmir music concert in Srinagar on September 7, 2013

September 7, 2013

SRINAGAR: Celebrated conductor Zubin Mehta led the Bavarian State Orchestra in a classical music concert Saturday in disputed Indian Kashmir despite strong objections from separatist leaders.

Indian born conductor, Zubin Mehta (C), stands after a performance during the ehaas-Kashmir music concert in Srinagar on September 7, 2013

The heavily guarded event was staged in the 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, who has conducted the Vienna, Berlin, Israel, New York and other philharmonic orchestras around the world, told the audience in the bright late afternoon before taking up the baton.

Some 1,500 guests, including government ministers and diplomats, listened raptly to strains of Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky at the concert by organized 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.

Extra checkpoints were set up throughout Srinagar and police sealed all routes to the concert as part of the security.

The concert went ahead despite demands by separatists for its cancellation on grounds it would legitimize alleged Indian "state repression" in the insurgency-hit region.

"Music is the only language I know and I hope to spread the message of peace with this performance," Mehta said Friday.

The concert was staged against the backdrop of a rise in bloodshed in the Muslim-majority territory where there has been a wave of clashes between militants and Indian forces in recent weeks.

There also have been deadly outbreaks of violence along the contested border between Indian and Pakistani forces.

Police said four men were shot dead earlier Saturday 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 as civilians the men who were shot by troops as they rode past the security camp on a motorcycle.

Mehbooba Mufti, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party chief, condemned the killings.

"On a day when all of Kashmir has been imprisoned in the name of establishing peace through music, it (the killings) was natural fallout of the situation," she said.

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.

Separatist groups called a general strike Sunday to protest against the killings.

A little-known rebel group had threatened to "target foreign tourists" if the concert went ahead, local media reported earlier in the week.

A parallel concert of Kashmiri music was staged by civil society activists to highlight alleged rights violations by security forces.

As the audience exited from that concert, they shouted anti-India slogans. Police used a water cannon to disperse them in a police official told AFP was a move to prevent the situation from escalating.

Tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, have died since the start of the separatist insurgency in 1989.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their 1947 independence from Britain and has been the trigger of two of their three wars.

Mehta, a Parsi, left Mumbai at 18 to study music in Vienna. He had said he fell in love with scenic Kashmir on a visit with his family in the 1970s.


Courtesy: AFP