Indian Idol creates Kashmir stir
21 February 2007
London: Hundreds of young people have ignored militant threats in Indian- administered Kashmir and auditioned for the popular television show Indian Idol. A large number of girls were among those who turned out for the auditions in the state capital, Srinagar. Indian Idol, based on the popular UK programme Pop Idol, has run for two years but this is the first time auditions have been held in Srinagar. Militants called the Sony TV programme vulgar and against traditional values. It's not a vulgar kind of programme... It is really a great opportunity Auditioner Miss Shami Al Madina Regiment, the militant group which warned hopefuls to stay away from the auditions, has been behind several attacks in recent years. In recent years, various militant groups have attempted to enforce Islamic values, particularly a dress code, in the region. 'Great step' The auditions in Srinagar turned into quite an event - particularly against the background of Kashmir's traditional society. The show is hosted by actress Mini Mathur. In spite of rain, there was a festive atmosphere outside the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Complex (SKICC), where the auditions were held on Wednesday morning. Since it was launched, Indian Idol has provided a platform for aspiring singers across India. The publicity head of Sony TV, Shola Rajachandran, told journalists 'we have come here with confidence and good will'. 'Why not have a nice budding singer from Kashmir?' One young lady waiting for her auditioning sister told the BBC: 'I appreciate Sony TV for taking such a great step. 'They have afforded a chance to Kashmiri youth to show their talent and to represent Kashmir. It's a good beginning.' She said the militants had no business interfering in a programme like this. 'If somebody wants to get freedom for Kashmir, that's altogether different. Everybody wants their individuality, their personal identity and personal recognition. For that, it's a very good platform.' However, she was angry that the people coming with those auditioning were made to wait on the road outside the SKICC in bad weather.Perhaps, Sony TV did not want to take any chances with security, more so in view of the militant group's warning. 'Talent' A number of candidates who failed in the auditions, performed before media people outside the convention centre. Among them was Saima who was ruled ineligible for being under-aged. She was accompanied by her burqa-clad grandmother, who said she was keen for the young girl to join the contest. Many Kashmiris have been emboldened to join the singing contest after a young man from downtown Srinagar, Kazi Tauqeer, won a music contest on another show on Sony TV last year. Meraj Ahmed who lost out in the auditions on Wednesday told the BBC: 'There is a lot of talent here. Sony TV is exposing it to the world.' The Himalayan state of Kashmir has been a disputed territory between Pakistan and India since the partition of the Indian sub- continent in 1947. The region has been the scene of an insurgency by militants against Indian rule since 1989. That conflict has cost at least 60,000 lives so far.