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Pragaash: 'Music does not have anything to do with religion, politics or gender'
Had I got an opportunity to speak to the members of Kashmir's first all-girls' band who have now called it quits, I would have asked them to listen to my favourite lines from a famous song by Taylor Swift, 'If you are lucky enough to be different from everybody else, don't change'.

The members of the band members who had decided to stay low after receiving vitriolic comments on their Facebook page, decided to end their affair with music after a decree from Kashmir’s grand Mufti, who asked the girls to disband.

The girls, who had initially insisted that they would continue to make music, said they are quitting out of respect for the priest, not because of the hate mails. Alas! The band only lasted for a few months only.

A Muslim cleric, who wished anonymity, said: “Islam does not allow music is true- in the sense that Islam does not allow any such activity which is useless and energy wasting. It also prohibits activity that makes men forget Allah the Almighty. This is clear from the Quran (Verse 6 Chapter 31). ‘But there are, among men, those who purchase idle tales, without knowledge or meaning to mislead (men) from the path of Allah and throw ridicule (on the path): for such there will be a humiliating chastisement. The prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) has prohibited Muslims from such things.”

If the band has called it quits on the basis of religion then it is very unfortunate, as it is music lovers in Kashmir who are going to miss out on some talented musicians from the valley. A musician from Mumbai, Upashna Chettri said, “Music gives you freedom from various things. It is not a bad thing at all. With the help of music, our vision can also be made broader. Music has the power to transform societies, break down social and cultural barriers and promote individual freedom. Some people are just narrow minded. Rock music does not have anything to do with religion, politics or gender.”

Gowhar Bhatt, a Srinagar resident while trying to explain the situation said that the entire episode has “nothing to do with religion”. He blamed the national media for blowing the story out of proportion. “Some Delhi-based media outlets picked up some hatred lines against the band members posted on Facebook. The national media wants to portray Kashmiris as intolerant,” Bhatt said.

Supporting the band, Bhatt added, “The ground reality is different in Kashmir at present. People are supporting the girls and there is nothing as being against music. I feel that these girls should not have been abused.”

Three people, namely Irshad Ahmad Chara, Tariq Khan and Rameez Shah – all hailing from Kashmir Valley have been arrested for “abusing” the band members on Facebook and investigations are on to nab others as well.

Kashmir has always been known for producing musicians, irrespective of the gender. One ponders whether the band would have met with the same fate had it been a boys' band. Nishant Lama, lead vocalist with a band in Bangalore, Alter Ego said, “Yes, gender does have a major role to play in this. As a musician and even as a normal 'sane' person, it sounds completely ridiculous to me. It quite plainly exposes the hypocrisy of our society.”

With the turn of events, where does the future of talented female musicians lie, if such kind of things crop up again? But, Lama does not feel religion should be distracted by any beliefs. “I am sure that the majority who practise Islam would be happy to promote such talent among them/us. But, it is a shame that such ideas gather momentum all in the name of God.”

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