Srinagar: Breaking their silence, a member of the first all-girl rock band of Kashmir on Tuesday said they have given up music as they respect the decree issued by Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad and all other bands in the Valley too have decided to disband.
"We just quit (singing and music) only because of the people of Kashmir... as Mufti sahib said it is unislamic. We did not know that they are unhappy with our music," one of the members of the band 'Pragaash' said.
She said the band decided to quit music after the fatwa was issued by the cleric. "We respect Mufti sahib who said it is 'haram'. We respect the opinion of people of Kashmir also," she added.
The girl said all the bands in Kashmir have decided to disband in solidarity with their band 'Pragaash'.
Although the whereabouts of the girls were kept a secret by the family after the controversy broke out, it has been confirmed now that two of them are putting up in the Valley and one has gone to Bangalore.
Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir Bashiruddin Ahmad said he was happy that the girls have quit and insisted that he had never issued any threat.
"I am happy they have quit. I congratulate them, their parents and all those people who supported my fatwa. Now, I would advise them to excel in education and prove their mettle," he said.
"There was no threat. I did not issue any threat. We do not believe in threatening and violence. I just advised them it is unIslamic. I have not created any fear in their mind. I did not put any pressure on them. This (singing) was the first step towards their disaster. If this is what you call freedom, then we do not want such a freedom," the cleric said.
The 10th-class students -- vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid -- had formed the band which won the best performance award in their first public appearance at the annual 'Battle of the Bands' competition in Srinagar in December last year.
J&K cops register case against online abusers
A member of Kashmir's first all-girl rock band has left the Valley for Bangalore after the teenage group was forced to call it quits in the wake of abusive and threatening online posts over which police filed a case on Tuesday.
"Kashmir is not a place for music. If anyone wants to learn music they have to go out," a member of the band said in a choked voice.
An official associated with the investigations said police were able to identify at least six Facebook users who had posted hate messages on the page of the rock band with the help of experts from the cyber crime cell.
"A case under Section 66 A of the IT Act and Section 506 RPC (Criminal Intimidation) has been registered in police station Rajbagh with regard to the hate messages posted on the Facebook page of the Pragaash band," a Jammu and Kashmir police spokesman said.
He said the investigations are in full swing but refused to give any details.
An official on the condition of anonymity, however, said, "So far half a dozen Facebook users who had posted hate messages have been identified while efforts are on to identify the others."
He said the Facebook page of the band had received a large number of posts -- mostly critical -- and it would take some time to sift through all of them.
"Arrests are likely to be made in the next couple of days," he added.
One of the band members said the band decided to quit music after the fatwa was issued by the Grand Mufti. "We respect the Mufti sahib who said it is haram. We respect the opinion of people of Kashmir also. That is why we quit," she added.
The girl said the band was disbanded not because of online threats.
"It is because people are not happy with us. People of Kashmir are not happy." she added.
National Conference leader and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said it was unfortunate that the girls band was forced to call it quits.
Farooq hoped the girls will not give up music and continue to sing.
The 10th-class students -- vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid -- had formed a band "Pragaash" and performed in December last year with a scintillating performance at the annual 'Battle of the Bands' competition in Srinagar and won the best performance award in their first public appearance.
Noma said she is not sure whether she will play the guitar again.
The controversy, meanwhile, brought to fore differences among separatist groups in J and K.
While Dukhtaran-e-Millat(DeM) warned the girls of social boycott, Muslim Khawateen Markaz (MKM) denounced the fatwa of the Grand Mufti against their singing and termed the threat of ostracisation as "unwarranted".
"There are much bigger issues where fatwas can be issued. Why has there been no fatwa against male singers? Why has there been no fatwa against girls participating in government or army functions," Zamaruda Habib, patron of MKM told PTI.
Zamaruda said the fatwa is nothing but politics and these things are giving a "bad name" to Kashmir.
Separatist groups divided on support to all-girl band
The controversy over Kashmir's first all-girl rock band 'Pragaash' has brought to fore differences among separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir.
While Dukhtaran-e-Millat) warned the girls of social boycott, Muslim Khawateen Markaz (MKM) on Tuesday denounced the fatwa of the Grand Mufti against their singing and termed the threat of ostracisation as "unwarranted".
"There are much bigger issues where fatwas can be issued. Why has there been no fatwa against male singers? Why has there been no fatwa against girls participating in government or army functions," Zamaruda Habib, patron of MKM said.
Zamaruda said the fatwa is nothing but politics and these things are giving a "bad name" to Kashmir.
"In the wake of controversies concerning women, what has concerned us in a terrible way is the upsurge in domestic violence and bride burning issues that have come to the fore.
"It is a catastrophic situation where we see very few men in the community getting agitated by such brutal acts of violence perpetrated against women. This shows the Islamic or humanistic morals of our society are being shoved under political excuses and remain at the bay from larger male consciousness," she said.
She said, the MKM believes in the freedom of expression of art, music and grace that "suits and defines us as a nation".
"The entire male leadership has plunged into the verbose 'fatwa' throwing and concerning itself with obscure teen girls music band and made it a centre point of the value system of the society," she said.
"Rather than ignoring it and allowing people freedom to develop their own understanding, they have reiterated the whole contention about 'male' centric leadership in Kashmir," she lamented.
"Why have no diktats come for male bands or all that Kashmiri boys have indulged into?" Habib questioned citing examples of recent incidents of burning of women and throwing acid on them.
Reacting to the threat of social boycott of girls of the band by another women separatist outfit, Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM), she said, the MKM is against it.
"I respect Asiya'ji (DeM chief), but I do not support social boycott. It is unwarranted. Why should we boycott our girls," she said.
She expressed concern over the way women's issues are being handled and said young girls should not be threatened.
"We should educate our daughters and not threaten them. I will cut the tongues of anyone who says anything against any Kashmiri girl," she added.
Sensing the mounting support for the girls, hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani had distanced itself from the 'fatwa' by Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad and said, "there is no threat to the girls".
'The girls feel terribly scared'
Adnan Mattoo, the rock group's music teacher and manager, said the three high school students who formed Pragaash — drummer Farah Deeba, bass guitarist Aneeqa Khalid and singer and guitarist Noma Nazir — won't talk about their decision to disband and what led to it.
"They feel terribly scared and want an immediate end to this controversy once for all," Mattoo said on Tuesday. "First, the girls had decided to quit live performance due to an online hate campaign and concentrate on making an album. But after an edict by the government's own cleric, these girls are saying goodbye to music."
Pragaash performed in public for the first time in December in Srinagar. It won third place in an annual "Battle of the Bands" rock show organized by an Indian paramilitary force as part of a campaign to win hearts and minds in the region.
Soon after the show, Kashmiri pages on social networking sites like Facebook hotly debated the band. Some questioned whether the performance was appropriate in the Muslim-dominated society in Kashmir and others raised broader questions on the Islamic approach to music and role of women in the society.
Many commenters backed the girls, but others were abusive, calling them "sluts" and "prostitutes" and calling for them and their families to be expelled from the region.
The controversy deepened on Monday after Omar Abdullah promised a police probe into the threats and wrote on Twitter that "the talented teenagers should not let themselves be silenced by a handful of morons."
The girls then became a political tool for all sides in the conflict.
Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad, Kashmir's state-appointed cleric, issued a fatwa on Sunday ordering the girls to "stop from these activities and not to get influenced by the support of political leadership."
Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, criticized Abdullah for selectively supporting freedom of expression and said the band's concert was "a step toward diverting young girls toward Westernization."
However, the alliance distanced itself from the cleric's edict and denied the girls were under threat. "Indian media is blowing up a small issue with a purpose to defame the Kashmiri freedom struggle," the alliance said.
Experts say for most people in Kashmir, neither women performers nor music are a problem. "It becomes an issue when these strings are used to subvert a dominant political reality," said Wasim Bhat, a Kashmiri sociologist.
Kashmir has a long tradition of poetry and music, and has produced iconic female singers including Raj Begum, Kailash Mehra, Naseem Begum and Shamima Azad, the wife of India's health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad.
That cultural heritage suffered when Muslim militants began their armed campaign two decades ago to gain independence for Kashmir.
The rebels ordered the closure of cinemas and liquor shops, calling them "un-Islamic" and vehicles of India's cultural aggression. India's military responded to the insurrection with crackdowns that included torture, kidnapping, extortion and murder.
As armed violence waned in recent years, music shows and theater performances re-emerged, but some of the boundaries set during the conflict remained.
In 1996, a group of four girls broke a centuries-old convention when they started learning Sufiyana music, a classical Persian genre of music which Kashmir adopted after Persian Sufi saints started visiting the region.
A music school named after legendary Sufiyana maestro Ustad Ghulam Mohammed Qaleenbaf began training the girls at a time when guns roared in every corner of the region.
"Despite the unprecedented unrest, I received support from everyone who came to know of my initiative," said Sheikh Mohammed Yaqoob, Qaleenbaf's grandson.
Bhat, the sociologist, said nobody objected to the initiative "perhaps because they stayed within a tradition that does not contest the present-day political realities here."
"The tension between modern and traditional is in every society. But what exemplifies this in a conflict situation like Kashmir is its motivated politicization," he said.
Mattoo, the manager, did not hide his anger.
"I know it from my last eight years' experience that we could have easily dealt with the online abuse," Mattoo said. "We were failed by the government-run mufti, who asked us to forget our music and declared our band against the religion," he said.