Kashmir all-girl band breaks up after threats

Updated 06 February 2013
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Kashmir all-girl band breaks up after threats

SRINAGAR: The first all-girl rock band in Indian-controlled Kashmir has decided to disband after only one concert because of threats its teenage members received on social media and a demand from a top Muslim scholar that they stop performing.
The fate of Pragaash, which means “First Light” in Kashmiri, highlights the simmering tension between modernity and tradition in Muslim-majority Kashmir.
Separatists criticized the band for what it said was “Western-style cultural waywardness.” Adnan Mattoo, the rock group’s music teacher and manager, said the three high school students who formed Pragaash — drummer Farah Deeba, bass guitarist Aneeqa Khalid and singer and guitarist Noma Nazir — won’t talk about their decision to disband and what led to it.
“They feel terribly scared and want an immediate end to this controversy once for all,” Mattoo said yesterday. “First, the girls had decided to quit live performance due to an online hate campaign and concentrate on making an album. But after an edict by the government’s own scholar, these girls are saying goodbye to music.”
Pragaash performed in public for the first time in December in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
It won third place in an annual “Battle of the Bands” rock show organized by an Indian paramilitary force as part of a campaign to win hearts and minds in the region.
Soon after the show, Kashmiri pages on social networking sites like Facebook hotly debated the band. Some questioned whether the performance was appropriate in the Muslim-dominated society in Kashmir and others raised broader questions on the Islamic approach to music and role of women in the society.



The controversy deepened Saturday after Omar Abdullah, the region’s top elected official, promised a police probe into the threats and wrote on Twitter that “the talented teenagers should not let themselves be silenced by a handful of morons.” The girls then became a political tool for all sides in the conflict.
Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad, Kashmir’s state-appointed cleric, issued a fatwa Sunday ordering the girls to “stop from these activities and not to get influenced by the support of political leadership.”


Kashmir’s main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, criticized Abdullah for selectively supporting freedom of expression and said the band’s concert was “a step toward diverting young girls toward Westernization.” However, the alliance distanced itself from the cleric’s edict and denied the girls were under threat. “Indian media is blowing up a small issue with a purpose to defame the Kashmiri freedom struggle,” the alliance said.
Experts say for most people in Kashmir, neither women performers nor music are a problem. “It becomes an issue when these strings are used to subvert a dominant political reality,” said Wasim Bhat, a Kashmiri sociologist.
Kashmir has a long tradition of poetry and music, and has produced iconic female singers including Raj Begum, Kailash Mehra, Naseem Begum and Shamima Azad, the wife of India’s health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad.


Malaysia reopens grisly murder case linked to former PM Najib

Updated 4 min 59 sec ago
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Malaysia reopens grisly murder case linked to former PM Najib

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police have reopened an investigation into the grisly murder of a young Mongolian woman in 2006 which has been linked to the country’s ousted leader, reports said Friday.
Altantuya Shaariibuu was shot dead and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur.
The murder was the most shocking aspect in a scandal involving allegations that an associate of recently toppled Prime Minister Najib Razak arranged huge kickbacks for the purchase of French submarines in 2002.
The case captivated Malaysia for years and there have long been allegations that Najib — defense minister at the time of the deal — and his wife Rosmah Mansor were involved. They have steadfastly denied the claims.
Two government bodyguards were convicted of the killing and sentenced to death. One subsequently fled to Australia, where he is in detention, and maintains he was ordered by “important people” to carry out the murder.
Altantuya’s father visited Malaysia this week. He met new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who backed re-opening the investigation, and lodged a fresh police report about the murder.
“I can confirm we are reopening investigations,” national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun was cited as saying by The Star newspaper.
“We will conduct our duties without fear or favor.”
Eric Paulsen, head of local rights group Lawyers for Liberty, said that Najib should be among the new witnesses to be interviewed by the police.
“We want to know why Altantuya was killed and who ordered her killing,” he said.
Malaysians broke the six-decade stranglehold on power of Najib’s coalition at elections last month, and voted in a reformist alliance headed by 92-year-old Mahathir.
Altantuya was the mistress of Najib’s associate, Abdul Razak Baginda, and was alleged to have demanded a cut in the submarine deal for translating during negotiations.
Abdul Razak was cleared in 2008 of abetting the murder.
The bodyguard who fled to Australia, Sirul Azhar Umar, recently said he is willing to assist any new government investigation into the case, a potential major breakthrough.