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Security tight for German 'peace concert' in Kashmir

The city of Srinagar in Indian Kashmir was under high security as a famous German orchestra performed a concert on Saturday. Separatists had demanded that the performance be called off.

A concert of Germany's Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by Indian-born Zubin Mehta was held amid tight security in Srinagar in India-administered Kashmir on Saturday.

The area around the concert stage (shown above during rehearsal) in the Shalimar Mughal gardens on the outskirts of Indian Kashmir's main city of Srinagar was put under tight security after separatists called for a strike in protest at the concert, describing it as a legitimation of "Indian state repression."

Concert 'a first'

The performance was the first of its kind in the territory, which has seen a violent separatist insurgency in the past few decades in which more than 45,000 people have died.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their 1947 independence from Britain, with rebels in Indian Kashmir demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Calling for a strike in protest at the concert, separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani told AFP news agency that "international events like this held in disputed territory interfere with its status."

"Any sort of international activity, be it political, diplomatic, cultural or sporting will have an adverse effect on the disputed nature of Kashmir," he said.

On Saturday, Indian police said they killed at least two alleged militants who allegedly attacked a police compound about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Kashmir. Hundreds of residents, disputing the police account, protested. Police reportedly fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

'Music's magical power'

Saturday's concert was titled Ehasaas-e-Kashmir, or "Feelings for Kashmir," and was organized by the German Embassy.

The concert began with a short composition played by the orchestra with local Kashmiri musicians followed by music by Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky.

epa03854433 Indian music conductor Zubin Mehta sits inside the historic Shalimar garden in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, India, 06 September 2013. A musical concert will be held by Mehta along with his Bavarian State Orchestra at Shalimar garden on 07 September amidst shutdown calls given by senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani. The separatist groups and civil society groups have opposed holding of musical concert in Indian Kashmir. EPA/FAROOQ KHAN

Zubin Mehta conducts the Bavarian State Orchestra

""Tonight we are all here for you and the world is looking at Kashmir," German ambassador Michael Steiner said in brief opening remarks.

Mehta said: "I have been waiting for this moment ... practically all my life. Next time let's do the concert in a stadium."

On Friday, Mehta responded to the controversy surrounding the concert by saying, "Let the music speak for itself. 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 added.

Mehta made the comments while receiving a cultural harmony award from Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in a ceremony in the capital, New Delhi.

tj/ipj (AFP, dpa, AP)