“Do what your heart says but I don’t think you can do it in Kashmir.”
In the Indian city of Kashmir, three girls with a passion for music created India’s only all-girl band. Their name Pragaash, which means from darkness to light, suggests that making music has brought the girls happiness and enlightenment. However, the girls have received widespread criticism for their “un-Islamic” behavior.
Vocalist and guitarist Norma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba, and guitarist Aneeka Khalid originally found fame as a band through their victory of best performance at Srinagar’s annual Battle of the Bands. The competition, which is held in the capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, was the girls’ first public appearance.
Following their appearance at the Battle of the Bands, the girls attracted the attention of the people of Kashmir, including that of Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad. Ahmad has described the girls as “stray[ing] from the rightful path,” and even suggested that they could lead the Islamic people towards “destruction.” Ahmad issued a fatwa (a ruling of Islamic law by a recognized official of the religion) for Pragaash to stop making music. After the fatwa, the girls began to receive large amounts of abusive and threatening Facebook posts, and some have even made threats to rape and kill them.
“I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them,” said Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah on this twitter account. Abdullah is one of Pragaash’s biggest supporters and has offered the girls security if the girls decide to continue with the band.
Unfortunately, feeling the pressures of the fatwa, Pragaash decided to end their music career. Guitarist Khalid has voiced in an interview with NDTV, that while she does not completely understand whether or not being a part of Pragaash is “haram,” or forbidden, she did say that Ahamad is a “saint” and “he must be respected.”
Recently, a growing number of people have begun to back up Pragaash in the fight for equality and justice. The Coalition of Civil Society, a human rights group, has made advancements toward a case against Ahamad, who has made other controversial rulings in the past. Three arrests have also been made in regards to the online threats Pragaash has received.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is often the scene of bitter resentment and rebellion of Indian rule. It also happened to be the only state in India where the majority of practices Islam. So for those hoping to pursue their passion in music, Khalid offers some advice: “Do what your heart says but I don’t think you can do it in Kashmir.”
By Maggie Rivers for Tom Tom Magazine