Kashmir Rocks To The Beat Of Peace

25 May 2008
The Times (London)
Rhys Blakely in Bombay

Srinagar: The biggest rock band in Pakistan played in Indian-controlled Kashmir last night, topping the bill in a “concert for peace” that was the biggest musical event held in the hotly disputed Himalayan region for decades. Junoon performed for thousands on the banks of Lake Dal, situated on the fringe of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, where Ravi Shankar taught George Harrison, The Beatles’ guitarist, to play the sitar in the 1960s. The show, one of just a handful of cultural events in Kashmir since the Islamist insurgency of 1989, was attended by Pratibha Patil, the Indian President, and was designed to forge new links between India and Pakistan. At the very least, it united hard-liners on both sides in their opposition. The Hizbul Mujahideen, Pakistani extremists, complained that the concert would send the message that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Syed Salahuddin, its leader, said: “When Kashmiris watch seminude Pakistani female dancers perform before the Indians, they will get disappointed with Pakistan.”