Coming out in support of Kashmir's only all-girls rock band which faced online threats, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday promised a police probe and hoped that the talented teenagers would not let themselves be silenced by a "handful of morons".
The girls, vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, 16, drummer Farah Deeba and Guitarist Aneeka Khalid, both 15, who defied convention to form the rock band ‘Pragaash’ (darkness to light) which came to limelight in December last year, are now faced with a challenge of online threats and abuses.
The CM said it was a matter of shame that those who demand freedom of speech on social media networks use it to threaten the girls, who are Std X students.
"The police will examine the threats issued and whether any provision of the law can be used to book those making the threats (to the rock band)," Omar said, adding, "I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them."
"Shame on those who claim freedom of speech via social media and then use that freedom to threaten girls who have the right to choose to sing," he wrote on Twitter.
Though there are dozens of bands currently playing popular music of different genres in the Valley, but this is the first all-girls rock band and was among the winners after their maiden public appearance.
After their scintillating performance at the annual ‘Battle of the Bands' competition in Sringar, the girls received online threats and absurd comments, leaving their parents worried and forcing them to keep a low profile.
"There has been a wicked campaign against the girls ever since they made their maiden appearance in public on December 26," said Adnan Matoo, who runs musical academy Band Inn where the girls are undergoing training.
Matoo, who is also the band manager, said the girls cried after seeing the abusive comments online. "I told them such things keep happening in the social media."
Matoo said people who are not happy over progress of the youth in the Valley are behind such campaign.
"Whenever a new thing happens in a society especially related to music and fashion, such things happen," he said indicating that the girls will not be cowed down by the online threats and absurd comments and will continue to pursue their dream in music.
He said the band is presently working on an album. Criticism is nothing new to Kashmiri women singers who defied strong opposition in the past as well and made a name in the field. Raj Begum, renowned Kashmiri singer, even won the national award.
Activists and artistes expressed outrage at the online hate campaign against the girls.
"It is completely shameful...why is police silent against these cyber criminals. The police chief should have initiated action against them and it should be done under the law of the land. Enough is enough," filmmaker and activist Shaykhh Mukhtar said.
Activist Humaira Khan said, "We are moving ahead, but why aren't our mentalities. We move ahead in real sense only when we open our minds."