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This rights discourse doesn’t rock
No legitimacy in opposing all-girls band but freedom of expression does not stop here
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Yet another controversy rocks Kashmir, this time over an all girls rock band. Freedom of expression is an important aspect of human rights. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. And, this right must be protected, though there are limitations to the freedom of expression which cannot be justified for inciting murder, communal violence or sexual assaults. Music is one of the most powerful mediums of expression and whatever one’s choice for a particular genre of music it makes no justification to oppose another kind by creating binaries of traditional and western music. Neither does one’s religious or misogynous belief impose on him or her the authority to delegitimize another person’s religion or attitude or denigrate any gender. There can be no delusion of ambivalence about the right of the girls to decide on playing on their music or choosing to decide which music they would like to play. Their right to perform their rock shows needs to be defended and those opposing it in the name of gender, religion or anti-tradition need to ticked off. As for the warning from the grand mufti of Kashmir, who does not represent the ideology of entire Kashmir, and whose recent fatwas on a range of issues have had minimal impact on the ground, would be best served by ignoring his comments, not by deeming it as a collective assertion of the Kashmiris, who have reacted in varied tones to an issue which they would by and large have treated as a non-issue. The online hate mail received by the girls comprises only a fringe element and must not be confused as a collective voice.

But let one not be fooled by the TV anchors who, in their bid to grab better TRP ratings, love to grab any issue that would represent Kashmiri Muslims in poor light and project them as the only hurdle to what they perceive as normalcy or display their obsession to selectively associate the idea of freedom of expression with a westernised representation. Nor by chief minister Omar Abdullah who promptly defended the rock band and its right to freedom of expression by tweeting about when the issue first came to fore. Needless to mention that his interventions provoke more outrage than they can soothe passions and the grand priest’s statement was just a clumsy sequel to the rashness with which the chief minister acted. Both the TV anchors and the chief minister gripped by the frenzy of defending the rights of the young all girls band may have a lot of answering to do about their double standards in speaking up only for selective rights and selective cultures to be protected. Questions can easily be posed to them on their earlier silence to several restrictions and curbs that the government has imposed on the people of Kashmir, not as aberration but the norm. When young boys and girls have been picked up for giving vent to their feelings at social networking sites and police has accused them of invoking ‘facebook terror’, there have been no slogans about freedom of expression raised by them. When the belt force crackdowns on an ordinary employee of the state when the latter protests for better salaries or dearness allowance and beats him up ruthlessly, there has sadly been no strong words to uphold his freedom of expression. When a blanket ban is imposed on all kinds of street protests, not only in the Valley but even the far tamer Jammu, does it not amount to curbs and restriction on freedom of expression? When a youth was gunned down by CISF men for joining protests seeking water and power supply in Boniyar-Uri last year, did the blood of the pseudo champions of freedom of expression not curdle? When newspapers are selectively picked up for being denied their fair share of government advertisements and timely payment of the few that are half-heartedly issued, does it not amount to gagging them? When separatist leaders are kept in confinement for prolonged periods only to suit the State’s paranoia of the public wrath what kind of freedom of expression is being upheld? When the State fails the people in preserving their traditional culture, their places of reverence, their environment and their language, and rather contributes to its decline through promoting the interests of the powerful elite through means that reflect both corruption and complacency, does it not amount to onslaught of culture. The selective response only betrays hypocrisy and hypocrisy does not qualify for freedom of expression.
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News Updated at : Monday, February 4, 2013
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