“I didn’t like the photographs of young girls singing and dancing. This is Kashmir,” Tariq Majid Khan, who is pursuing a masters degree in English literature, told investigators soon after he was arrested for intimidating and forcing Kashmir's only all-girl rock band into silence.
The Jammu and Kashmir police have arrested three men and are looking for at least 10 more online abusers who posted hate and threatening messages on the Facebook page of Pragaash (Kashmiri word for the first light of day).
Srinagar-based cable operator Irshad Ahmad Chara and Rameez Ahmad Shah, who recently cleared Class 12 and is a resident of Baba Wayil in Ganderbal, near Srinagar, are the other two.
The police, who said the three were aged between 17 and 24 and don't know each other, are probing if the men are in any way linked to a militant or a hardline group.
“There is no evidence yet but they are clearly ‘mind jihadis’. The views they posted online are very radical, symptomatic of the increasing radicalisation of society,” a senior police officer, who didn’t wish to be identified, said.
Another officer, too, said there seemed to be no specific motive. “It is like a rowdy comment, they never thought about the consequences,” said the police officer.
The three have been charged with criminal intimidation and sending offensive messages electronically (Section 66A, IT Act).
They referred to the band members as prostitutes. “Three girls raped in Kashmir and thrown into the river Tawi. Stone pelting has begun and the common Kashmiri is suffering” read Khan's post. His father has a small farm in Anantnag and he is pursuing a degree from IGNOU.
Cable operator Chara wished the girls and their families to be burnt. Son of a vegetable vendor, he was shocked at his arrest. “I saw posts referring to the girls as shameless and spoilt and felt the need to be part of the online conversation,'' he told the investigators.
All of them have been remanded to police custody for nine days.
Sec 66A is a bailable offence and the police are trying to build a case under Section 506 for criminal intimidation, which can attract seven to 10 years' imprisonment.
Threats and then a fatwa by the grand mufti of Kashmir forced Noma Nazir, 15, Aneeqa Khalid, 16, and Farah Deeba, 15, to disband more than a month after their first performance in the “Battle of Bands” contest in Srinagar. Ironically, the father of one of the girls is a police inspector.