‘Pragaash’ was an all-girl Kashmiri rock band, also the first of its kind in India, formed by three Muslim girls to participate in the “Battle of Bands ” rock show organized by an Indian Parliamentary force. They received the award for best performance while winning heart and mind of people of that region. The three band members were: Noma Nazir Bhatt (vocals and guitar), Farah Deeba( Drummist) and Aneeqa Khalid( Bassist).
‘Pragaash’ which means the first light could only perform once and then the light faded away into oblivion. Soon after their victory they started receiving death and rape threats through their cell phones and facebook profiles.
A simple performance turned into a hot debate on social networking sites. Some people questioned if the performance was correct for a Muslim dominated society or if the performance was in accordance to the Islamic approach to music and role of women in the society. Many people supported the band and its music but there were many others who labelled them as ‘sluts’ or ‘prostitutes’. Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad (Grand Mufti), Kashmir’s state-sponsored cleric, issued a fatwa ordering the girls to “stop from these activities and not to get influenced by the support of political leadership.” Grand Mufti criticized the girls for their immoral behaviour, “When girls and young women stray from the rightful path…this kind of non-serious activity can become the first step towards our destruction.” He issued the fatwa against the group stating that music was “not good for society” and that all ” bad things happening in the Indian society is because of music.” Many women too spoke against the group claiming that women should perform music only within the confines of their house and only in front of other women or family. Finally, the girls made the decision to disband. One of them left the city while the other two kept a low profile. Adnan Mattoo, the group’s music teacher and manager said that the three girls did not wish to talk about their decision to disband and their reasons for the same. He said, ” They feel terribly scared and want an immediate end to this controversy for all.” Although, one of the band members (name unidentified) told CNN-IBN in a telephonic interview that the rock band decided to disband because of grand Mufti’s edict and not the online threats. The girl said in the interview that the band respected grand Mufti’s decision because he was “more aware of our religion” and she begged with the media to stop covering the case.
Many blame the girls for not standing for their passion while others blame the Muslim community. But, there is more to this than meets the eye. There are many kashmiri-muslim-women music performers such as Raj Begum, Kailash Mehra, Naseem Begum and Shamima Azad, yet this band had to leave their passion because of the simmering religious-controversy turned political-agenda-for-votes turned topic-to-raise-media TRP. Everything in this country goes through social networking scrutiny and debates with as many supporters as opponents. It can also be said that the controversy deepened after the state Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, wrote on Twitter that, “the talented teenagers should not let themselves be silenced by a handful of morons” and he promised that the police would investigate the threats which later lead to the arrest of three people for “promoting enmity between classes” and “criminal intimidation” And then started the real tirade against these girls as they became a political tool for different sides in this conflict. Grand Mufti intervened with his fatwa while the Kashmiri separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, condemned Omar Abdullah for being discriminative in supporting the freedom of expression. Soon other political parties seized this opportunity to blame Omar Abdullah for not taking an action sooner enough. The media channel were obviously not going to let this opportunity go waste and dived in this brewing hot spicy debate. Indian media’s selective coverage of this story may look like being aimed for a greater good yet the only thing it does is stereotype Kashmir. They jumped into supporting the cause for this band but it was the exact opposite in the case of the Kashmiri rapper Roushan Illahi (MC Kash) whose studio was raided by the police itself. The international media covered his story but not the Indian media. His music was said to be politically charged and a “threat to the security of the nation.” Apparently all the hullabaloo about the “Pragaash” band was only present in the virtual world and not the real Kashmir grounds.
The girls might even have continued practising music had it been a mere facebook debate rather than being published nation wide by the media and political interferences. Nobody seems to have considered that the discussions and debates on social networking sites might have been nothing by online trolling. Whereas the Grand Mufti’s fatwa against the girls might have some value in an Islamic Sharia rule but not in a democratic country in-fact there are hardly any Kashmiri’s who take the grand Mufti seriously. Many Kashmiri’s feel betrayed by the Indian media which chooses to prioritize such issues while the state is suffering from unemployment and suicide issues which deserve more attention.