Few dare to support all-girl band

Special Correspondent
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CALLS IT QUITS:Members of the all-girls rock band ‘Pragaash’ perform at the annual ‘Battle of Bands’ competition in Srinagar recently.— PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD
CALLS IT QUITS:Members of the all-girls rock band ‘Pragaash’ perform at the annual ‘Battle of Bands’ competition in Srinagar recently.— PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD

With the exception of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, hardly anyone of consequence has supported Pragaash, the Valley’s first all-girl rock band, the members of which have gone into hiding after receiving a threat of ‘social boycott’ from the Dukhataarn-e-Millat, a radical women’s outfit.

Three fresh Facebook pages have come up with nearly 1,000 supportive posts in the past four days but most of the contributors are either morphed or believed to be those from outside the Valley. Filmmakers and music lovers, who have expressed solidarity with the group, are familiar to few in the media and cultural circles. Even officials of the Department of Information and the Cultural Academy have chosen to be mute spectators.

No association of the film, theatre, music, culture, art and media circles has come up with a statement of solidarity. Aziz Hajini, the Sahitya Akademi’s convener (Kashmiri), and president Adabi Markaz Kamraz maintained that they had no knowledge of the developments.

A Kashmir University professor, who runs a representative civil society group of intellectuals, traders and rights activists, declined to comment. “Now that the politicians and the clerics are in, it’s really difficult to make a comment,” she said. Woman rights activists Quratul Ain, Ezabir Ali and Hawa Bashir are the three-odd individuals who unequivocally condemned the hate campaign.

“Why these double standards? Don’t millions of the Kashmiris enjoy the songs of Raj Begam, Zoon Begam, Shameem Dev and Jameela Khan? Why don’t these groups object to the extremely objectionable songs and dances running in our drawing rooms through cable TV channels,” asked Ms. Bashir, who taught at the Government Women’s College for more than 30 years. “By their argument, there’s has to be a blanket ban on music in Kashmir.”

Pragaash’s promoter and organiser Adnan Matoo, who claimed to have launched the State’s first rock band, Bloodrockz, in 2005, refused to admit that that there was anything objectionable or un-Islamic in the performance. According to him, it was all a Sufi musical with a number of Bhule Shah hits — and a remix: mein hoon mushkil mein nazar tou kar le, faza ke pal mein zara gul kar de .

In 1992-93, the Dukhataarn grabbed the headlines when it enforced the Islamic dress code allegedly by sprinkling acid on young girls wearing jeans and refusing to clad the ‘Abbaya’. Its founder Syeda Asiya Andrabi has repeatedly denied having used acid. The spray, she insisted, was “a harmless ink.”

Nonetheless, the Dukhataarn carries the image of a dreaded outfit for many — particularly those associated with the media, art and culture — in Srinagar.

Ms. Andrabi is the wife of the jailed founder of the Jamiatul Mujahideen, Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, who now heads a different political outfit called the Muslim League.

More than fighting Indian troops and the police, the Jamiatul Mujahideen is known for its anti-media strikes, including banning publications and kidnapping theatre and television talents. Police records show that the group was responsible for the assassination of the former Joint Director of Information, Syed Ghulam Nabi, human rights activist Hridhay Nath Wanchoo and a couple of television artists.

The police consider the Dukhtaraan threat more seriously than the Mufti’s fatwa. “Till date, there’s no FIR but we are working on certain inputs,” Srinagar SSP Ashiq Bukhari said.



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