In 2012, Praagaash was the only female band to compete in a Battle of the Bands show in Kashmir, India. Pragaash means “from darkness to light” and the teenage rock band has idols such as The Beatles and Billie Joel Armstrong. Today, the 3 gurls, Noma Nazir, Farah Deeba and Aneeka Khalid, are in hiding after Muslim right wing vigilante women’s group, Dukhataarn-e-Millat, called for a boycott of the band and several threatening Facebook comments were issued. As well, a juristic ruling by the Grand Mufti, the highest official on religious laws in Kashmir, forced the band to break apart.
It is not only that women are performing that is making Islamists unhappy; traditional female artists have performed before. It is that the gurls are performing ‘rock and roll,’ going against Islamic values. The 3 gurls have broke down barriers in India, but also became a threat when they challenged religious authority. The Grand Mufti commented that “when girls and young women stray from the rightful path … this kind of non-serious activity can become the first step towards our destruction.” Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in India, where the social role of women is dictated by religious laws that are often used to suppress women further in a state where women are already oppressed.
It is completely unacceptable that the Mufti and Muslim state are dictating what is right and wrong to the women of Kashmir; they should have the right to musical expression. But in a place where untold violence is a theme, what choice do the gurls have but to quit their band? The Armed Forces Special Powers Act has put the average person under the control of the Indian army, and there are many cases where the army has taken advantage of women physically. What choice does Praagaash have under threat of sexual assault, rape and physical abuse?
The young women should have the right to express themselves. I cannot imagine how scary it must be for Noma, Farah and Aneeka at this time. It seems that their light has been extinguished into darkness by the controlling government and religion in Kashmir.