Inside a well-laid room in her upmarket residence, a pheran-clad girl blushes as media shoots all sorts of questions. For class X student, it is her first tryst with media since she joined Kashmir’s first all-girl rock band Praagaash seven months ago.
From fatwa to online threats to her quitting music, the 15-year-old is trying hard to answer all questions to quell the controversy surrounding the band. “We respect his (grand mufti) decision that music is haraam (forbidden) in Islam and therefore we have quit,” she said.
It was last year when a relative gifted a guitar to her younger brother that ignited her interest in the music. She went to a local institute and started learning music before she joined the band.
Praagaash stood third in the ‘Battle of Bands’ competition which saw dozens of rock and other Sufi bands vying for the coveted title. But the happiness proved to be short lived as moral brigade posted abuse and threats on their Facebook page forcing them to go underground and shun public performances.
“What can I do if it is not allowed in religion? Band stands disbanded and two other girls have also quit. If there was no statement, we may have continued, not as a career but as a hobby,” she said.
“The culture of Kashmir is not like this. Music has been going on from centuries. In Islam though it is not permitted and therefore we quit,” she said. For centuries music has been an inseparable part of Kashmiri culture. Famous singers and poets including Lal Ded have left indelible mark in nurturing Kashmir’s rich cultural ethos. A Kashmiri marriage is incomplete without wanwun, the folklore recited by women.
Visible shaken, the girl said the controversy has been blown out of proportion. “The threats were on Facebook and it did not matter. They (media) highlighted it too much (and we became the centre of focus of the debate)”, she said.
Ask her about the threats to leave Kashmir to pursue music, the girl gets agitated, “Who are they to ask us to leave Kashmir? It is our Kashmir. It is our state and they should leave instead.”
The girl now wants to leave behind the controversy and concentrate on studies. “I want to complete my schooling. I want to join engineering,” she said. But she has a advice for others. “Listen to your heart. Kashmir is a place where you can’t do anything,” she said.