IT was the unlikeliest of settings and the unlikeliest of scenes: more than 10,000 music-lovers, many wearing traditional Islamic hijabs, gathered on the banks of historic Dal Lake in Indian Kashmir, defying terrorist threats to rock to a "musical jihad for peace" staged by Pakistan's biggest band, Junoon.The band performed for thousands on the banks of the lake, 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 event was hailed yesterday as a major development in attempts by the two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbours to improve relations after decades of confrontation over Kashmir, a territory targeted by Osama bin Laden as part of his global jihad.
"Something great has happened to Kashmiris after ages, and we rocked," said Kashmir University student Arshi Gouse, 20. "Music's a tremendous healer and I'm sure such events will succeed in defusing hatred between India and Pakistan."
The concert was held amid controversy after Pakistani extremist group Hizbul Mujahideen denounced it as an outrage.
Demanding that the Pakistan Government bar Junoon from playing, Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin declared: "When Kashmiris watch semi-nude Pakistani female dancers perform before the Indians, they will get disappointed with Pakistan." The jihadi chief said the show would have a "negative impact on the disputed status of Kashmir" and would send a wrong message to the international community that "Kashmir is an integral part of India".
Junoon is Pakistan's biggest Sufi band and plays a fusion of western and eastern music.