- Many students say teachers are forcing them to dance and sing at the ‘Shashrang’ event; organisers say it is meant to ‘revive culture’
SRINAGAR: Many students of girl’s schools here are expressing resentment at being literally coerced into attending a music festival. “Our conscience doesn’t allow us to sing and dance in front of politicians and bureaucrats.” said a group of students from one such school.
Shashrang, a “Kashmiri Sufi musical festival” organised by the ‘Musical Club Cooperative’ was scheduled to be held on September 12 at the Botanical Gardens, but now the organisers have reportedly shifted the dates to September.
A student of Kothi Bagh higher secondary school said, “My parents are not allowing me to participate in the event because our religion doesn’t allow us to do so. But our teachers are forcing us to join the event. Around 200 girls of our school are supposed to be participating in the musical event, and we are all reluctant to do so.”
“I haven’t yet told my parents that I am participating in a musical festival,” said another student, “my father won’t allow me to go to college then. And here, in college, my resentment has no value because the teachers are compelling us to participate, saying it’s an order from higher authorities.”
On his part, Waheed Jeelani, chairman of the ‘Musical Club Cooperative’ said, “Shashrang is a platform where we introduce our young generation to traditional Kashmiri music. It’s a humble effort to revive our culture, and this year it’s going to be grand. This will be the first time that the performances of participants will be broadcast live on channels like ETV and DD Kashir.”
But a teacher at a higher secondary school had a different take: “This is stereotyping. A majority of the students who are participating are young girls, who are made to entertain bureaucrats. These young girls are not meant to do that.” Said Fatima, a student ‘participant’, “My internal exams of 12th standard are going on, and my golden tests are also scheduled for the same month. And my teachers want me to participate in the event. We already lost a month rehearsing for the Indian Independence Day, and now this musical fest is another distraction. My father wants me to score good marks in exams, not waste time singing in musical events and doing a parade on Indian Independence Day.”
When asked about the reluctance of students to participate in the event, Jeelani said, “We are not forcing children to participate. They should willingly contribute to the event.” Romana Qazi, Principal Kothi Bagh girls higher secondary school — who also holds the additional charge of Amira Kadal girls higher secondary school – said, “The girls have not come to me if they have a problem participating in the event. And politicians are not bad people, they are among us. Also, the girls will get participation certificate which will be of use to them. The time they have spent on rehearsals won’t go unrequited.”
While it is not quite clear how a ‘participation certificate’ will be of use to the students, neither how students who don’t want to dance will benefit from rehearsals, Director Education Shah Faisal and Education Minister Naeem Akhtar were unavailable for comment.