Kashmir girl band Pragaash gives up after threats

Pragaash at Battle of Bands in Srinagar, 2012 The band appeared live at the Battle of the Bands in Srinagar in December

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An all-girl rock group in Indian-administered Kashmir say they have disbanded after the region's most senior cleric called them "un-Islamic".

"Just tell everyone we have quit. We are no more a band," one of the members of the group Pragaash told the BBC.

The three teenage members say they have received threats since they appeared at a Srinagar music event in December.

On Sunday the Muslim-majority state's grand mufti criticised them for what he said was indecent behaviour.

"When girls and young women stray from the rightful path... this kind of non-serious activity can become the first step towards our destruction," Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad said in a statement, quoted by AFP news agency.

Start Quote

I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them”

End Quote Omar Abdullah Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister

Many others have leapt to the girls' defence, however. Support for a band which has broken with tradition has poured in from all over the state and elsewhere in India, where the story has been headline news.

Abuse

Pragaash made their first live appearance at the Battle of the Bands music festival in Srinagar in December. Since then, they say they have received abuse and hate mail on their Facebook page.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has promised police will investigate the threats, and has promised the state will ensure their security.

"I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them," Mr Abdullah said on Twitter over the weekend.

Jammu and Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority state and has been the scene of a violent insurgency against Indian rule since 1989.

The region has a long history of women dancing and singing in public at festivals and marriages, even though some clerics oppose such behaviour.

"Singing has been a part of our culture and we have had many famous female artistes from the region," said Mehbooba Mufti, president of the opposition People's Democratic Party.

A spokesman for the hardline Geelani faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference distanced itself from the grand mufti's remarks.

"There is no threat to the girls. Nobody has issued any threats. It is a mere propaganda by the media," he said, adding that abuse posted on social networking sites could not be described as a threat.

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