On Sunday, Pakistan’s acclaimed rock band, Junoon, performed in Srinigar, the summer capital of the Indian-administered region of Jammu & Kashmir, (J&K). The concert, organized by the NGO, the South Asia Foundation, was “also a part of celebrations held to mark the inauguration of the Kashmir Study Institute at Kashmir University,” reported BBC News. Junoon was the first international group to perform in the conflict-torn Kashmir in the past twenty years. However, the event sparked major controversy when leading Kashmiri militant, Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, urged the Pakistani government not to allow Junoon to travel to Srinigar. According to the BBC, “He argued that the performance would have a negative impact on the ‘disputed status’ of Kashmir and would send a wrong signal to the international community that ‘Kashmir was an integral part of India.'” An editorial in The News today also reported that the United Jihad Council opposed the performance for similar reasons.
Despite this opposition and the reported death threats on the group members, Junoon performed some of their most famous songs for thousands of their screaming fans on Sunday. Dawn quoted lead singer, Salman Ahmed, who told the crowd during the concert, “This is the 10-year-long tryst with destiny that today Junoon is with you.” Although a few Pakistani singers and musicians visited Kashmir last year, “the Sunday event was the first on a large scale,” noted the AFP.
The concert is significant given the violence and conflict that has plagued Kashmir, which has claimed more than 43,000 lives in the past two decades. Moreover, according to the AFP, such performances have been shelved since the outbreak of an Islamist insurgency in 1989, which greatly affected the region’s entertainment industry, “with the rebels targeting cinemas, liquor shops, video parlors and other sites deemed threatening to Islamic culture.” However, noted The News editorial, “…the message of peace, brotherhood and goodwill that dominates the Sufi tradition, and has been taken up by Junoon, is well-suited to the conflict-hit Valley of Kashmir today.” Junoon, which is well-known for raising awareness on issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to corruption in Pakistan, has already done a great deal to bolster Indo-Pak unity and understanding. Their concert on Sunday, noted the editors, “helped humanize the often faceless people of Kashmir and prove that their will does not necessarily coincide with that of the militants who see violence as the only means to achieve freedom for the territory and its people.” Goodwill measures like these, therefore, [see past posts CHUP has done on film diplomacy], should serve as an example to our countries’ governments, which should work in conjunction with such alternative roads of diplomacy in order to achieve a resolution on this issue. [Images from the AFP]