The Telegraph
Sunday , February 3 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Valley girl band shrugs off threats from moral cops

Srinagar, Feb. 2: The Valley’s lone all-girl rock band has vowed to continue “working on” their music after quietly going “underground” for over a month following online threats from Kashmir’s self-styled moral brigade.

In a Facebook post yesterday, one of the members of Praagaash the Band (From Darkness to Light) said there had been “some misunderstanding” and “we did not quit or anything”.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah today came out in support of the band. He promised a police probe and hoped the teenaged trio would not let themselves be silenced by a “handful of morons”.

Praagaash, the first all-girl band in Kashmir, was formed last year by Noma Bhatt, Farah Deeba and Aneeqa Khalid. All three, from Srinagar’s uptown area, were students of Class IX then.

Noma is the band’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Farah is a drummer and Aneeqa a bass guitarist.

“Rumours” that the rock group had been disbanded because of the threats and abuses on social networking sites after their performance at Srinagar’s Indoor stadium last December created a buzz today. One of the posts had said they were a “shame” for Kashmir and should be “thrown out”.

But Aneeqa, in her daring message on the band’s Facebook page, said the band had not folded up. “Hey guys! Please don’t pay heed to any rumors. There was some misunderstanding, we did not quit or anything…Aneeqa :),” she said.

The 15-year-old said they had gone “underground” for a while. “Have been working on our songs lately. Please share this message and keep supporting,” she added.

Adnan Mohammad, the trio’s music teacher and mentor, said the girls had not been performing since their last show on December 26. “There has been an online campaign against them, where they have been threatened and abused. They had gone silent after that and there were rumours that they are quitting music. But I checked with all of them and they said they won’t,” he told The Telegraph.

Adnan, a rhythm guitarist who heads a Kashmiri Sufi band, BloodRockz, said the girls might avoid live performances but cut albums.

“They and their parents were frightened because of the threats. I talked to all the three girls and they said they would continue playing music. Since some people have problems with live performances, they said they would make albums from now.”

Omar said the police would “examine the threats” and whether “any provision of the law” could be used to book those who had made the threats. “I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them,” he tweeted.

He said it was a matter of “shame” that those who demand freedom of speech on social media networks “use that freedom to threaten girls who have the right to choose to sing”, in an apparent reference to online supporters of azaadi.

It is not clear if these online supporters of azaadi have any role in the threats to the all-girl band but Omar routinely blames such activists.

The girl band has also got support from many Netizens. A Facebook page — “I support Praagaash- Kashmir’s first all girls rock band” — was created to back them.

This is not the first time that the Valley’s self-styled moral cops have threatened western music bands, which they see as “immoral”. They have even forced concerts to be cancelled.

Musical concerts had almost vanished from the Valley during the early 1990’s after the rise of militancy. But rock bands formed by boys have since come up over the years and such shows have become an annual feature now at several places.