Kashmir’s first all-girls band has become the subject of a major controversy that has pitted mainstream political parties against the valley’s grand Mufti and separatist groups.
The band called Pragaash, which had performed in Srinagar at a music festival recently, had drawn major condemnation on several social networking sites.
The band comprises three teenaged girls -- vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, in a statement, had encouraged the girls to perform and ‘not be silenced by a handful of morons’.
The grand mufti of Kashmir, Mufti Bashir-ud-Din, has taken strong objection to the chief minister’s remark, saying, “Singing and playing instruments never develop a society but are the first step towards demolishing its moral fabric. I am happy that the new generation has attained a pro-development and pro-religion stance but there are some girls treading on the path of destruction”.
In a statement, the Mufti asked the parents of the three girls “to rope-in their children towards the teachings of Islam”.
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference and women’s separatist group Dukhtarani Milat have also opposed the band.
The hard-line APHC group, headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, called it ‘a step towards diverting young girls of valley towards westernisation’.
Geelani said he was “surprised to see the way Chief Minister Omar Abdullah supported the band”.
“In a civilised society, though there is no place for coercion, there are some values a citizen has to adopt to safeguard the ethical, moral and religious traditions,” he said.
“We belong to the land of Sufi saints where there is no place for musical concerts. It is an irony that our girls are now being diverted towards westernisation,” Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq told a local daily.
Dukhtarani Milat chief Asiya Andrabi said, “Kashmir is being made into a safe haven for Bollywood by allowing the filmmakers to shoot at ease here”.
“We appeal to the parents of the girl to ask their children to refrain from singing as it is against Islamic principles. If they don’t follow our advice, we would be forced to announce a social boycott against them,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party lauded Abdullah for coming to the defence of the band, stating that those claiming to be liberals are exposing themselves and even their double standards have come to light.
BJP leader Balbir Punj said, “There is an effort to Talibanise the society, particularly in Kashmir Valley and several other parts of the country''.
"I salute Mr Omar Abdullah for standing up for these young girls who are just taking resort to music to entertain themselves and others. And it is a liberty and right which the Constitution of India gives," said Punj.
"But the people who claim to be liberals, particularly Left liberals, by their sheer silence they are exposing themselves and their double standards," he added.