The police in India-administered Kashmir have arrested three people so far, for making online threats to the members of an all-girl rock band, which disbanded Monday following a fatwa issued against them.
The three-member band — “Praagaash” meaning “from darkness to light” — described as “un-Islamic” by the region’s most senior cleric, said they had received abuse and hate mail on Facebook since they made their first live appearance at the Battle of the Bands Music Festival in Srinagar in December.
The Jammu and Kashmir Chief minister Omar Abdullah, who extended his support for the band, directed the police to act after the band had quit live performances due to threats and derision. They had promised to come back with an album, but decided to call it quits following the edict.
“I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them,” Abdullah said on Twitter Saturday.
The police have begun tracking down the IP addresses of the 26 users whose comments, out of the total 900 posts on the band’s Facebook page, were found abusive, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported citing unnamed officials.
The youth arrested so far in connection with the threats are Tariq Khan, who was apprehended from Bijbehara, a town in South Kashmir, Rameez Shah, arrested from Ganderbal in central Kashmir and Irshad Ahmad Chara, a resident of SD Colony, Batamaloo in Srinagar, the PTI report said.
The band guitarist Aneeqa Khalid on Wednesday said that they decided to quit out of respect for grand priest Bashiruddin Ahmad who said singing was “blasphemous.”
“We did not know that people of Kashmir were unhappy with what we were doing,” Khalid was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
The band formed by three Muslim teenage girls, Aneeqa Khalid, Noma Nazir and Farah Deeba was the only female rock band to contest at Srinagar’s Battle of the Bands in December. They won a third place at the contest.
The cleric welcomed the band’s decision to quit singing, saying it was “in interest of Islam.”
“I appreciate the understanding of it by the girls as well as their parents and the whole society, which has backed me in stopping this blasphemous activity,” Ahmad said. “Bring in seminars, debates and other educative forums instead of glamorous music in the valley,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, has seen the rise of hardliners trying to impose Islamic law in the wake of an insurgency, which began in 1990.
Islamabad/Srinagar, Feb 7: The family of a youth arrested in Islamabad (Anantnag) last night, on charges of threatening girls band Pragaash, has accused police of implicating him. 23-year old Tariq Majid Khan son of Abdul Majid Khan, a post-graduate in English Literature was arrested from his residence at SK Colony Islamabad (Anantnag).
“The police raided our house at around 10 PM on Wednesday and took him along to Police Post near Bus Stand where from he was shifted to Srinagar,” the family members told Greater Kashmir. They said they only learned from police that he had posted something on Facebook against the girls rock band. The family members, however, refuted the police allegations of threatening and using abusive language against the girls on Facebook and accused the police of framing him under frivolous grounds.
“I can assure you that he will never use abusive language or threaten anybody. He is religious minded and might have expressed his feeling by opposing the band. The authorities have framed and booked him under frivolous charges,” said Manzoor Ahmad Khan, elder brother of Tariq, who runs a provision store near his house.
He said that if Grand Mufti who holds an authority on religious matters has opposed the band, how it matters if a young boy expresses himself.
“Is the law only for poor? Why don’t they then book Grand Mufti?” he asked.
He appealed the authorities not to put the career of his brother at stake. “My brother always remains engrossed in studies and also teaches the students of the locality to support his family. He recently passed his PG in English Literature and wants to go for research now. I appeal the government not to mar his career by playing politics and pleasing some people,” Manzoor said.
Unaware of why Tariq has been detained, his mother is worried about the well being of her son. “I don’t know why he has been detained. But he can never abuse anybody,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Tariq’s neighbors also vouch for his innocence. “He is a down-to-earth person and offers prayers five times a day. He can never threaten or use abusive language,” they said.
They said that parents are worried about the safety of their kids. “There is panic all around and parents are seen inquiring from their children if they use Facebook and if they had opposed the girls rock band,” said Mushtaq Ahmad of SK Colony.
The residents also blamed the government and media for their selective approach on justice. “SK Colony is the same place where three teenagers were killed by government forces in cold blood in a compound of a house in 2010. But the culprits are roaming free and instead were given promotions,” said the residents.
They said that even government after holding an inquiry had admitted that it was a cold blooded murder but then in order to ‘safeguard the national interest’ none was punished and instead the youth who protested the killings were harassed and booked. “The same national media which has blown the rock band issue out of proportion, had then blamed the three killed teenagers for attacking the Amarnath pilgrims though the Yatra started three days after the incident,” the locals rued.
The family of Irshad Ahmad Chara of SD Colony, Batamaloo, is hopeful that he will be released.
“My son is innocent. I am sure he will be released,” his wailing mother Hameeda Bagum told Greater Kashmir. “He completed his graduation recently and joined cable business for a living.”
“I spotted two policemen knocking at our main door. They asked about Irshad. He was sleeping and I informed him. They whisked him away, but Irshad was confident,” Hameeda said adding cops told her that Irshad would be questioned about “mobile”. “As I came out, I saw police had cordoned my house.”
“They did not say he has threatened some girls. I was watching all this for last three days on TV,” she said and added she is sure her son would not have threatened anybody.
The cops searched the house thoroughly and took along one desktop computer and mobile phones. “They searched every almirah and were only looking for cell phones,” she said.
For his father, Abdul Ahad, the situation is different. “I am unable to understand all this. Irshad studied out of my hard labour and he can’t do this,” Ahad said adding that he is sure for his early release.
Narrating his ordeal, Ahad says that once he reached Batamaloo police station chasing police Gypsies, his son was bundled in another Gypsy and whisked out from police station. “I was told by Batamaloo police that he was taken to Rajbagh police station. There they first denied his arrest,” he said and added at 3 pm, the cops from police station Rajbagh called him and admitted his arrest. “When I reached Rajbagh, Irshad was taken in a Gypsy to some court,” Ahad said.
There is nothing adverse in police records against Irshad.
Muhammad Shafi Shah, a labourer of Ganderbal, has appealed CM Omar Abdullah for the release of his son Rameez, saying his son won’t use Facebook again.
“Rameez is very shy and can’t dare to threaten anyone. Still we seek pardon on his behalf and request government to release my son. I promise he will not use Facebook again,” said Muhammad Shafi Shah.
“He is a student of 12th class and a very gentle boy, even if he had made a comment against Pragaash it would have been on a lighter note. Government should not demonize Rameez for his childish act, rather counsel such teenagers against mischief and ban Facebook in Kashmir immediately.”
“Everyone in Kashmir is discussing the band issue, government should not make such selective arrests,” said Nayeem Shah, Rameez’s cousin.
“We do not know whom my son has threatened when he is only a kid, what is this Facebook?” Rameez’s mother Mubeena told reporters at her residence, adding, “We request Omar Abdullah, who is our MLA also, to forgive my son if he has done something wrong.”
She added that last night police cordoned their house and arrested Rameez in a manner as if he was a terrorist.