Zubin Mehta's Kashmir concert on course

Srinagar, Aug 31 (IANS) The much-talked-about Zubin Mehta concert here in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir scheduled for Sep 7 is on course, despite opposition from separatist politicians, officials said.

The 90-minute concert would be telecast live in over 50 countries. Zubin Mehta is scheduled to arrive in a special plane along with his orchestra Sep 5.

Organisers and security agencies are now busy with the arrangements.

The floriculture department that manages the Shalimar Garden, the venue of the concert, is refurbishing the garden to create a stage for the over 100-member orchestra to be conducted by Zubin Mehta.

There will be seats for around 1,500 invitees to the concert. Sources in the state government told IANS the audience would be strictly by invitation.

However, art and heritage lovers have objected to the erection of platforms inside the Shalimar Garden. They say it interferes with the original architecture of the 17th century garden laid by Mughal emperor Jahangir.

The emperor used the garden as his summer residence during his stay in Kashmir with his queen Nur Jahan.

State intelligence agencies are saying there is no specific guerrilla threat to the concert, but all precautions associated with an international event of this stature are being taken.

"Despite opposition to the concert by separatist politicians, we have no specific input about any militant threat to the concert. Yet, there would be no lowering of guard," said a senior intelligence officer.

In a statement, separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who was the first to oppose the concert, said they were opposing the concert because of political overtones.

The 14-km-long route from the city to Shalimar Garden would be sealed in the evening of Sep 7.

The Dal Lake would be monitored by security forces using speed boats.

No civilian movement would be allowed inside the lake at least three km beyond the banks where the garden is located.