The all girls’ band from Kashmir has shut shop and no amount of entreaties is likely to make it change its mind. As young entrants to the music scene, the teenagers had probably readied themselves to face the ugliness of competition, but not the fury of the opprobrium that was heaped on them. They have been accused of bringing shame not only to their families but also to the whole of Kashmiri society by going against what is believed to be the sharia’s prescriptions. Like girls elsewhere in the country, they have been forced to become standard bearers of morality for a society that does not know how to deal with change. The fact that they belong to Kashmir perhaps makes their story more poignant because here they also have had to contend with an administration which does not know its mind. After haranguing them with his support on Twitter, the chief minister of the state has declared, in not so many words, that he can neither be expected to displease a mufti by condemning the fatwa brought against the girls nor be held responsible for any decision taken by the band members, even if it means the folding up of the band in the face of the onslaught. In a state where the administration cannot ensure the safety of its employees or members of the civil society who pledge to work with the government, the girls cannot be blamed for not trusting the chief minister with their lives. So after deciding to withhold public performances, they are believed to have gone further to disband their group in order to assuage the hurt sentiments of the moral guardians of the society that claims them as its members.
In other words, the girls have been put into a straitjacket. They have been segregated not only from the mainstream youth of the country for their sin of belonging to a disputed region but also forced to fit it in with a culture that thinks nothing of victimizing them for their gender. And all this has been done in the name of upholding a religious and regional identity that has never been more alien to Kashmir. A land made famous by its women minstrels such as Lal Ded and its syncretic culture, Kashmir is itself being straitjacketed into a suffocating puritanism it has never identified itself with.