Winning hearts with Sufi strains
Pakistan's top Sufi singer Farida Khanum won a standing ovation at a music festival held in the revolt-hit Indian Kashmir.
Khanum drew the ovation in Kashmir summer capital Srinagar, urban hub of the Islamic separatist insurgency raging since 1989, as she entertained festival-goers with her classical Sufi songs late Monday.
"It was my deep desire to visit Kashmir and to see the paradise (Kashmir) which was my mother's native place," Khanum told the audience at the festival which ends Wednesday.
Khanum, known as "Pakistan's ghazal queen", is best known for her musical renderings of great Sufi poets. The visit by the Pakistani singer to Indian Kashmir came against the backdrop of a slow-moving three-year peace process to resolve all disputes between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan including over the Himalayan region.
Cultural exchanges between the two countries have become much more frequent since the peace process began.
The countries each hold parts of Kashmir but claim it in full and have fought two wars for control of the region since independence from Britain in 1947.
"The people here have a sense of beauty. I'm extremely happy to have come here to perform," said Khanum.
The majority of Muslims in Indian Kashmir follow Sufi traditions even though the separatist revolt is led by hardline Islamists. The music festival, which is playing to packed audiences, is a rare entertainment treat for Kashmiris as the rebels shut down movie houses in Kashmir in 1989.