The Cyber Crime Cell (CCC) of Srinagar district police has begun investigation into the threats and a hate campaign launched through micro-blogging networks against the Valley’s first all-girl musical band ‘Pragaash’ immediately after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah flashed a reassuring message on Twitter.
Srinagar Superintendent of Police Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari revealed to The Hindu that the CCC had taken cognisance of the online threats to Pragaash. He said no complainant had come forward but police had learned through its sources that some ‘e-urchins’ were harassing the group of teenage girl students who had performed in a concert last week at the Indoor Stadium.
“We are scanning the activities of some already identified suspects who had indulged in similar threat and hate campaigns in the year 2010. As of now, it has become clear to us that some e-urchins are threatening and harassing the members of the musical band through Face Book and Twitter,” Mr. Bukhari said.
He said that he himself watched a video of the group on Saturday but found nothing objectionable in it. “There are some young girls who play different musical instruments and others are heard singing.” The SSP disclosed that despite a number of threatening posts, a number of people had appreciated the girls’ initiative and supported them in the online debates.
Informed sources insisted that the police had as usual ignored the threats but the Chief Minister’s tweets on the subject alerted them. Soon, the police constituted a team of investigators, including officials with IT background, who put cell phones of certain suspects on surveillance and began tracking their on-line activities.
“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,” the Chief Minister posted on Twitter. “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],” Mr. Abdullah said.
Sixteen-year-old girls of 9th and 10th standard, who participated in the concert on December 26 defying convention — vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid — are said to have stopped live shows in the wake of the online threats sent to them through the social media.
“Police should act tough and make it clear that that there are not different rules for Palghar and Srinagar,” said a senior theatre activist.
According to him, threatening and harassing the artists, particularly the female singers and musicians, was not new to Kashmir. He reminded that in 2007-08, certain elements had similarly threatened singer Mehmeet Sayeed and sought to suppress her. According to him, over a dozen artists, including local television artist Shameema, had been gunned down by militants “for the sin of the same defiance.”
Activists and artists expressed outrage at the online hate campaign against the girls.
“It is completely shameful... why are the 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 Shaykhh Mukhtar said.
Activist Humaira Khan said: “We are moving ahead, but why aren’t our mentalities? We move ahead in the real sense only when we open our minds.”
“There has been a wicked campaign against the girls ever since they made their maiden appearance,”said Adnan Matoo, who runs musical academy Band Inn where the girls are undergoing training.
Mr. Matoo, who is also the band manager, said the girls cried after seeing the abusive comments online. “I told them such things keep happening on social media.”
The girls have been accused of breaking traditions and bringing shame to society. Though they have stopped the live shows for the time being, the girls said they would continue to pursue their passion — music.