Seema in action

National award for

Seema Anil Sehgal,

‘Peace singer of India’

by Beena Sarwar

Nieman Fellow

Nieman Foundation for Journalism: Harvard University

Mumbai-based renowned singer-composer from Jammu & Kashmir, Seema Anil Sehgal, has been conferred India’s prestigious Hakim Khan Sur Award for the year 2005-2006, for her ‘lasting contribution in the field of national integration’ through her music.

Lata Mangeshkar, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Sunil Dutt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and activists Asghar Ali Engineer and Teesta Setalvad adorn the roll of honour for this prestigious national award.

Popularly hailed as the ‘peace singer of India’, and the ‘Bul-bul-e-Kashmir’, Seema may be the only singer in the world whose voice has been presented as a national gift.

Prime Minister Vajpayee presented “Sarhad”, a music album sung and composed by Seema, as a national gift, to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his erstwhile Pakistani counterpart during the historic Lahore Summit, in February 1999.

She was later felicitated at the prestigious Harvard University, Boston, USA, the only singer from India to receive such honour.

Seema has effectively employed her music with meaningful poetry to establish peace and communal harmony in India and abroad. She has sung and composed music to the works of many poets, including Bulley Shah, Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, presented at concerts in India and elsewhere.

Since January 2002, she has been singing her especially devised Peace Concerts, titled ‘Lahoo Ka Rang Ek Hai’, in different parts of India to promote national integration by bringing different communities of India closer; especially Hindus and Muslims. In December 2003, she sang at the largely attended Karachi convention of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, at a time when relations between the two nuclear-armed nations were still tense.

Hakim Khan Sur, in whose name this national award has been instituted, was a Pathan from the North West frontier, who came to Mewar from Hyderabad, his city of domicile.

He became a general in Rana Pratap’s army and fought in the epic battle of Haldi Ghati (1576 AD) against the invading army of Emperor Akbar. This was the first recorded instance in which the Mewar army was led by an outsider. Hakim Khan Sur was the first to lay down his life in battle.

Even in death no one could part him from his sword, and so he was buried with full honours – sword in hand. His sacrifice is symbolic of the supremacy of ideology over religious and communal considerations.

The award instituted by the Maharana Mewar Foundation, Udaipur, in 1986, carries a cash prize of Rs 25,001/-, a silver citation and a ceremonial shawl.

The Chairman and Managing Trustee of the Foundation, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar will present the award at a special function to be held at the Manek Chowk, The City Palace, Udaipur, on Sunday, 5 March 2006, followed by a live concert by Seema.