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Pakistani Rock Band Enthralls Indian Kashmiris

  • Shahnawaz Khan

A popular Pakistani rock band Sunday mesmerised a big audience in conflict-ridden Indian administered Kashmir, where concerts and Pakistani delegates are a rarity. Shahnawaz Khan reports for VOA.

The young in the audience danced and clapped to the tunes of Junoon, a top Pakistani Sufi rock band performing on the banks of Dal Lake in Indian administered Kashmir.

The band's performance in summer capital Srinagar was part of inauguration ceremony of the Institute of Kashmir Studies, of the University of Kashmir. The event was organized by South Asia Foundation, a non-government organization promoting regional cooperation in south Asia.

The institute was inagurated by Indian president Pratiba Devisingh Patil, whose visit met with violent protests Saturday called by Kashmiri separatist groups opposing Indian rule.

Syed Salahudin, who heads United Jehad Council, the largest militant alliance fighting for the independence of Kashimr, had urged Pakistan to stop the band from holding its concert in Srinagar. He had told a local news agency the event sends the wrong signal that the struggle for Kashmir's independence is over.

Others, including Inam ul Rehman, a multimedia professional, agreed, saying this was a political, not a cultural event.

"I would have liked to go there to watch the musical show, because it was a dream to see Junoon performing in Kashmir," Inam said. "But because India made it a political show, so it was not feasible to go there. By portraying musical shows as returning of normalcy, India is trying to distort ground realities in Kashmir."

The five-member band, which has a huge fan base in South Asia, performed hit songs from its debut album and its lead singer, Salman Ahmed, sang Sufe songs in Urdu. He told the audience he wanted to get to Kashmir 10 years back, but was denied the permission.

The audience of some 4,000 people braving stringent security measures was made up largely of student invitees.

Many in the audience did not want their music mixed with politics. Gazala Ahmad, a student at the University of Kashmir, was one of them.

"The organiser for the event, it is promoting it as a part of peace process, as promoting regional cooperation, I don't subscribe to that," Gazala said. "Because I don't think that musical concert has something to do with peace process. That is a different issue. This can be simply entertainment in a lighter way."

The entertainment industry was badly hit in Indian administered Kashmir after the outbreak of anti-India insurgency in 1989. Guerrillas forced the closure of cinema halls and liquor shops in early nineties while an undeclared night curfew curtailed movement after dusk.

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