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The Rock Band (Pragaash) Row In Kashmir Valley – OpEd

Kashmir Valley. Photo by Saad siddiqui56, Wikipedia Commons.Kashmir Valley. Photo by Saad siddiqui56, Wikipedia Commons.

Smaller issues turn people into monsters in Kashmir and more often due to media hyperbole. There has been a plethora of infamous Chalo’s (protest marches) and Bandhs (civil curfews/shutdowns) during the past few summers — be that infamous Amarnath Land Row, (2008), The violent unrest of 2009 (Shopian Double rape and Murder case row) and Machil Fake encounter Row in 2010 and then after a fragile/deceptive calm, the mysterious ablaze incident of the revered Saint Dastgeer Sahab’s Shrine’s (in Khanyar, Srinagar) in June, 2012, throwing the State government especially the J&K Muslim Waqf Board to sharp criticism among public and intellectual circles.

Now 2013 has begun with yet another controversy, a yet another row (though too mild) has started out of nothing exactly, after the brilliant and award winning performance by the valley’s lone girl Rock Band named as Pragaash (morning light) bringing once again the already controversial Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir State into the lime light for issuing a Fatwa against such bands as unislamic. The band soon after its performance in the last December, had started receiving a high virtual intimidation and condemnation via facebook, etc, reflecting the nature of society we are and the kind of violent, unholy and immoral moral brigade, which has developed over a period of time. The Mufti Azam (people say self claiming) added fuel to the fire by his fatawa against the rock band as if it was the last evil/sin left to pure Kashmiri Muslim society. Why only the girls Band sounds non-serious to cleric and why he thinks only this is the path of our destruction, is really surprising. Why do we treat female activities more threat to our social or religious fabric and ignore every other thing, still remains to be answered. Is our moral policing really objective and authentic?

Thank God, this time the incident has at least not revived the infamous Kanneh-Jung (stone pelting), attacking security personnel, City siege, Curfews, movement restrictions, confrontations with local police and other security agencies, sloganeering, etc, that had become a full fledged culture in this part of the world in the recent past .Perhaps because of the tight regulation by the administration and mostly because the innocent girls drenched themselves deep in silence, decided to quit, disbanded the band and disappeared from the public scene, fearing the volatility of the matter and the kind of society ,they and their families live in.
Of Suffering and Undelivered Justice

This goes without saying that Kashmir valley is continuously facing peace and trust deficit and the fear of interference from everybody in and out, has deepened among the masses, to a greater extent. The trust went off permanently, especially after the heart wrenching Shopian Double Rape and Murder Case, Infamous Dardpora and other mass rapes incidents, discovery of thousands of the nameless graves, plethora of disappearances and certain other sensitive brutalities. Also the saga of time consuming but futile inquiries or commissions set up in the past or the plethora of round tables and talks over Kashmir issue thus far, even the much hyped Centre’s appointintment of three interlocutors to look into the Kashmir problem and find solutions, hardly yielded any fruit and public satisfaction.

The pity that in this context of chaos, creating hue and cry has become a trend now. Sometimes army and police are criticized over the special powers they enjoy, many a times, a hopelessness expressed with the state administration for the bad governance, etc,. Also there has been the criticism against the separatist camp too for their lack of unity, lack of stringent agenda on Kashmir problem and vision about the solution and above all their failing to manage and control the earlier unrests, etc,. Now the Band is in hot discussions everywhere. Thus it infers that anything that comes into existence in this part of the world is highly discussed and more often than not negatively assessed like the Rock Band Case. Also it may not be wrong to say that we are now purely a culture of hollow criticism, a culture of never rational commentaries over something or nothing. Also more than the people of the valley, pseudo-analysts and so called self acclaimed Kashmir experts from inside or outside India immediately develop their self fulfilling prophecies and prepare hollow and factually incorrect commentaries on Kashmir happenings in their ivory towers simply to mislead the educated stock outside the region, who still are made to believe that Kashmiri’s are communal, hate mongers,radical, Jihadis, religious fundamentalists, terrorists, barbaric and inhuman creatures.

Also the fox and lion game is still not over here, there are enough foxes that remain craving for a single opportunity to highlight anything and manipulate shabbily for vested interests including the media that has always been believed as over exaggerating the Kashmir happenings including the present incident. The Rock band issue was highly highlighted perhaps to mislead people about the story and present the religion and Islamic experts in bad picture.
The Other Side of the Story

Amidst all this, on one hand, the pity is that People who know nothing about their own religion or that of others faith, go on blindly lambasting Ulema and Fatwas, like anything forgetting that Fatwa is a viewpoint of a credible and authorized Islamic scholar. One can adhere to anybody’s view point or cannot simply; it is up to ones conscience, outlook and religiosity. On the other hand, People who over emphasize or lambast the band (Girl’s rock band-Pragaash) also ignore that Jammu and Kashmir is not a Shariah governed State at the moment but under a secular constitution, as is discussed by a few analysts. So Fatwas are mostly taken as view point of experts. Also those who talk high of morality should first set their house right and begin from their homes only. So Fatwas all the time cannot be decrees here to be accepted by one and all equally and necessarily.
We must remember that Kashmir-the peace fragile zone where even an altercation between a local and a non-local can lead to a big mess and to a prolonged unrest is undoubtedly difficult to govern smoothly and writing upon issues here is also not a child’s play. Therefore analysts or media must represent the true Kashmir and always present the whole picture rather than creating sensational stuff. Kashmir has been through a violent phase from the mid-1980’s when the armed struggle started and changed various colours of turbulence till date. However, one thing that remained constant and certain is uncertainty over here. The uncertainty about peace and more importantly about the return of peace, about life and livelihood, the game of interpretations and misinterpretations leading to a consistent chaos, etc,. One more thing which has had the upper hand in all circumstances is the prevailing fear and regulation/interference in peoples lives and over regulation over nothing or trifles. In every conscious mind today there is a fear, the fear of everyone. Furthermore, a created hiatus between the different socio-political and religious communities of the valley be that Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Muslims or others and more importantly now the emergence of a plethora of sects followed by sectarian hatred is the real matter of concern which has till date not been addressed at any level by anyone including the holy men.
The Folly of Condemning the Clergy

Condemnation apart, we must not see one side of the story, with the unprecedented proliferation of islamophobia, the moral brigade like Ulema, or preachers or the religious moral code and fatawas need not to be misinterpreted, generalized ,distorted and condemned blindly without even knowing the words of the Fatawa itself, what is currently the order of the day. It speaks of our intolerance against any faith, any moral code, Islam and the Islamic Ulema, even by those who do not belong to the faith or know about Islamic norms of morality but simply resort to blatant comparing with other faiths or beliefs. If a cleric issues a Fatawa , his Fatawa should discourage against any immoral conduct in any Islamic society and that is his moral duty. His fatawa is his Islamic viewpoint about any act but simultaneously he cannot intimidate the people or force them to follow him anyway. One can follow his view point or one cannot, it is unfortunate that Islamic clerics despite their credible scholarship receive condemnation for their statements, because they know the religion better than us all, which no body is ready to accept. To follow them or not can be the matter of our religiosity or will but to condemn them for their decrees or viewpoints means insulting their persona, religion, ones faith, their credibility and above all their freedom of speech. We must remember when we condemn them; we try to snatch their voice, which we are not rightful of. We need not to intervene or criticize the fatawas and must remember that they are not stopping us or banning us but express their view point out of their knowledge in the religion.

Hakimm-ul- Ummat and Philosopher poet of the east, Allama Iqbal writes in Zarb-e- Kaleem;

“Chod Europe k Liye Raqs-e-Badan kay Kham-o- Paich
Rooh Kay Raqs Main Hai Zarbe Kaleem-ul- Ilahi
Silah Uss Raqs Ka hai Tashnaghi-e- Kaam-o-Dahann
Silah iss raqs ka hai Darveshi-o-Shahanshahi”
(To Europe leave the dance of serpent limb. The prophet’s power is born of the sprit’s dance. That breeds the craving flesh, the sweating palm. This breeds the race of pilgrim and prince).

This is his view point but should we rebut him or do what we think is better for us?
Last Word

However everybody can realize whether Pragaash like bands can bulldoze the moral fabric of Kashmir as viewed by many people. Definitely not, as there is much left to correct before this all. Also despite being a Muslim community, are we really educated about Quran and is our younger generation given the right and enough knowhow of Quran or Islam to keep the religious or moral fabric intact and understand the religious lexicon in right perspective? Certainly not. Is it just this rock band that deserves condemnation, needs to be pondered over? Last but not the least immorality has to be reconceptualised as intimidating little talented girls via virtual media is also immorality, vulgarity and against religion that Ulema should highly condemn. Moreover, morality should start from ones home, which we have forgotten like anything. Condemning the clerics view is not the solution. A change in the mindset is needed. It is he who knows his job best and therefore cannot be silenced by people who know nothing about Islam. Today even non-Muslims highly criticize the Ulema (Islamic scholars) and many a times treat it Mullahism (clergy rule) and some out of anger even issue decrees that Muslims should go to Pakistan. If such hate mongers can be tolerated and not criticized, how we can gag the voice of the men of any religion to voice their concern against any thing they deem inadequate.

Lastly, It would be, however, pertinent to laud J&K Police for their successful initial break through and some arrests of online abusers in this case. It may not be wrong to say that this is the organization’s (JK Police) yet another speedy successful intervention after the brilliant performance in Maulana Showkat Shah’s killing case in 2011.

We jump to conclusions too fast, we criticise blindly without full knowledge, we love commentaries and cheap fame. We don’t live and do not let others live with freedom. We deserve introspection.

I support the Band……..


About the Author

Dr. Adfar Shah
Dr. Adfar Shah
Dr. Adfar Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based (Kashmiri) social analyst and columnist at various reputed international and national media groups. Being an academic he has more than sixty publications besides hundreds of conceptual articles to his credit. He has been writing on South Asia's socio-political realities at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and recently elevated to Associate Editor (English) for South Asia. Reach him at [email protected]

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