Roushan Ilahi credits the relentless political violence that has become Kashmir's singular identity in the past decades, as the reason why he became MC Kash. In a video called 'Hip Hop Homeland', Ilahi recounts the unending surveillance and suspicion an average Kashmiri lives with and role it played in turning him to a hip-hop artiste. "I was an itty bitty kid of about 15-16 and wherever I went, I had guns pointed at me. AK-47s, assault rifles. These barrels just sticking at me. Not just me, these guns were pointing at me and my mother," he says in a video shot and released by 101 India in February this year.
MC Kash draws his name from his homeland - Kashmir.
His music, like he explains in the video and his Facebook page, intends to bridge the vast knowledge gap between Kashmir and the rest of India by bringing the voice of Kashmiris to the rest of the world. That's exactly what 22-year-old MC Kash was perhaps trying to do when he reached Bangalore for a show. However, the events that he claims unfolded soon after he reached the performance venue, seemed to explain how difficult it is to have a rational conversation around Kashmir.
According to Greater Kashmir, the singer was in Bangalore on invitation from Amnesty International (AI) to throw light upon the human rights violations in Kashmir. The paper says that he was heckled by ABVP activist on arriving at the venue. Amnesty International has been facing violent protests over the past few days from ABVP activists who have complained that the organisation has been indulging in 'anti-national' activities.
In a Facebook post, Kash explains, that minutes before he was supposed to kick off his performance, a trio of policemen intercepted him. Not only did they grill him for 20 minutes, they allegedly warned him against any 'anti-national' content in his music. They also asked him to not say or sing anything that may anger the Kashmiri Pandits in the audience.
He alleges that he later went on to urge the audience to spend a moment's silence on the trials Kashmiris are going through. Which is when, reportedly, the police asked the sound engineers to cut off the connection so that he can't perform any further. He alleges that he cried that the police behaviour was 'bullshit' to 'Indian ladies' he encountered when he stormed off. Soon after, chants of 'Azadi' filled the auditorium and he alleges, the police officers 'charged' at him threatening to take him to jail.
That was when he says 'Kashmiris' formed a protective circle around him. He doesn't elaborate what happened next or if the police further grilled him or tried to take action against him. However, he mentions the police wanting to 'analyse' the contents of his song. He also doesn't mention if the organisers intervened when the police disrupted the show and how the rest of the audience reacted to the entire incident.
Read his entire post here.
"I came to Bangalore as a Hip Hop artist from #Kashmir with a lot to say and tell. However, I expected what every Kashmiri expects when he/she travels to India and to be honest, the Indian State did not disappoint. My performance was scheduled for 8 PM and even though the event was running a bit late I was categorically stopped from entering the auditorium by the Bangalore Police whose three-starred officers sorrounded me and threatened me with jail if they or the Pandits present in the crowd found my lyrics "anti-national". They grilled me for over twenty minutes and only allowed me to go inside when the time for the event was nearly up. Even then, they stood beside the stage and looked as if they were ready to pounce on me. But the Heart of a Rebel ...
I felt weak. The threats and the intimidation played heavily on my mind. But then I heard the overwhelming cheers coming from the #Kashmiris present in the crowd. They gave me strength to stand as I have stood for years: never compromising with the truth. Because the Heart of a Rebel ...
As soon as I held the mic, the MC in me became one with my people. The first words I spoke? "Rest in Peace, Inayat. I do this for you." Because the Heart of a Rebel never forgets. I asked the Bangalore crowd to mourn alongside Kashmiris and to observe a moment's silence for what is currently happening in Kashmir. And then, Heart of a Rebel ...
The Indian Police then ordered the sound guys to cut off the mic and the music as soon as the beat to my second song had begun. I felt the anger, not because it was humiliating, but because this is how India treats genuine Kashmiri voices. It doesn't matter whether you are a young artist hoping to narrate stories or a victim of Indian oppression hoping to find receptive ears of solidarity in India. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED. If the fascists don't stop you, the police will. And the good people, who can at least feel a degree of empathy, will vehemently sit scared and quiet. And that is bullshit. Where is the indignation? I went off stage, angry. The first Indian I encountered on the way, two ladies sitting together, I looked at them and screamed, "This is bullshit!"
After that, the place went in flames. #Azadi reverberated in the air. I saw one of the three-starred officers waving his finger at me, charging towards me in anger and screaming, "You did this. You're going to jail now." And then another officer joined and grabbed me by my shoulder. That is exactly when #Kashmiris formed a circle around me. We hugged and shook hands and smiled. We felt the power in being united and together. I have experienced the same in the protest marches I have been a part of in Srinagar. And this felt like home.
Last I heard, the Indian State along with its fascist groups is incessantly threatening Kashmiris in Bangalore. It wants Kashmiris to feel scared, wherever they are. The Police also wants to analyze the lyrics to the song that I performed. So:
"HEART OF A REBEL IS BEATING RIGHT INSIDE ME,
NOW HOW WILL YOU CONFINE ME, WHEN YOU CAN'T DEFINE ME?
HEART OF A REBEL! HEART OF A REBEL!"