Hate through music, lyrics and visuals: Hindutva pop The online eco-system hosts a plethora of videos peddling hate
10, Oct 2022 | CJP Team
Lilting pop songs, with young males proudly acclaiming that ‘fanatic’ and ‘violence’ are terms to be celebrated, lyrics and the accompanying visual leaving little to the political imagination. Yes, the past seven years have seen the flourishing of the Hindutvawaadi pop eco-system. The online eco-system hosts a plethora of videos peddling caste superiority, anti-minority abuse and not so subtle intimidation. The flashy, CGI-saturated, Hindu deity-flashing songs have become a chosen favourite, for politico-religious processions, demonstrations or simple cultural festivities. It is as if the proclamation of the transformation of Indian society and state, needs to be aggressively iterated, online at least. Often in climate favourable states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, even parts of Delhi and UP, real life events also echo these numbers.
YouTube has seen a comfortable proliferation of these video songs. Easy enough to identify, accentuated with comments that praise Hindutva (the ‘Hindu nation’) and liberal use of the slogan, “Jai Shri Ram” are some markers. Others are the threatening use of the term gaddaron (traitors), liberal splattering of threats within the lyrics like kaat dena (cut down, finish off), abuse of the Muslim and places of worship and cultural symbols etc.
The videos itself use the regular motifs of farmers, army personnel in action, angry Hindu Gods, war, holy war, images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and of late Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Ajay Bisht).
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The only difference in the latest songs is the manner in which singers have become wary that their words may land them in trouble. While some find roundabout ways to talk about targeted persons or communities, others only talk about violence without specifying the target. Still others use images while talking about the violence to imply the target. The spastic nature of video-editing in these videos provides a valid excuse to arbitrarily use photos.
From a quick investigation into this online eco-system located within You-Tube, 2019 seems to be an important dateline marker and the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown a period that saw a burgeoning of this hate music. Then the past few months of 2022, including as recently as six days ago, we see more and more songs uploaded, each with this somberly sinister political intent.
This however, is just the tip of an iceberg. There are now thousands of copycat songs on Youtube. The videos are similar – processions of saffron flag waving men is intercut with news footage while a singer, clad in saffron, gesticulates aggressively. The music is middling, even monotonous. But the lack of sophistry eclipses what this essentially is – organized propaganda that spreads hate. For some You-tube channels, the views bring in money in proportion to online ‘views’ and even influencer status – added incentives both. But the ultimate destination is the ubiquitous DJ’s playlist in a religious event. These events could be mandatory visarjans, elective shobha yatras or static ‘pandals’. The veneer of a religious ‘occasion’ extends legitimacy because India’s towns and villages have a rich and diverse tradition of religious music. But though the stated intention is religious or celebratory, the agenda is provocation, intimidation and indoctrination. Multiple videos online and news reports from this years’ volatile Ram Navami shobha yatras show how deadly this cocktail is (Khargone, Madhya Pradesh Janakpuri, Delhi). Processions are timed to reach mosques during namaz and the vilest of provocative words are blasted from giant speakers incessantly. Violence often follows. Lives are lost. This should then be called what it essentially is – background music to Hindutva’s bloodlust. The music of a violent time.
Demand creates supply, one is tempted to generalize. Until one looks closely. Is it possible that there is an organized attempt to produce such songs and disseminate them? The channel SANGAM DHUN, with sixty five thousand subscribers, hosts about three hundred fifty videos. The videos are unabashedly political and predictably provocative. A song uploaded six days ago has these lyrics
Cheer ke rakh denge hum usko/ buri nazar jo dalega
Will tear apart those who look at us with evil eyes,
Hum hai bhagwadhari / Kaun tumhe bacha lega
We are saffron soldiers, who will save you from us
Sadko pe mazhab ka tamasha ab nahi hone denge..
We will not allow your religious drama on the streets
(a dog whistle for Muslim friday prayers)
Bhago jahan se aaye ho tum / Fatwa yahan na chalega
Go back to wherever you are from. Your fatwa won’t work here.
Yet another song is titled
Padega danda pichware mein to vande mataram gaoge
One stick to your backside and you will sing Vande Mataram.
Another one, Main Kattar Hindu Sher Hoon, uploaded three weeks ago has 3.8k views and showcases, with ‘soft lilting lyrics/ the contrastingly ominous words, How the time for War, the Warriors are here and ready as men on bikes awash with the deep saffron crowd the streets.
A number of songs are about Yogi Adityanath, some are about the prime minister . These videos coexist with Ganesh Arti and other religious music. Some videos have a thousand odd views and some have millions. All videos on the channel are produced by a man called Dharmendra Shukla (Gopal Ji). It is possible that Gopal ji is a great connoisseur of music given the prodigious output of songs on his channel. But the facebook profile of Dharmendra Shukla (Gopal Ji) followed by the Sangam Dhun Facebook page reveals a Lucknow based, middle aged politician with deep links to the bigwigs of the Hindutva ecosystem. In fact a look at his profile gives a sneak peek into the veritable network of Hindutva itself. There is Gopal ji meeting the Indian Defence minister of India, Rajnath Singh and discussing ‘organisational matters’ . While in August 2022, Gopal ji is holding a motorcycle borne tiranga rally in Bahraich, in July he is visiting the Ponda ashram of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagriti Samiti (HJS) accused of being complicit in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and communist Govind Pansare. In fact, Gopal Ji’s trip to Goa is eventful – he meets not only Pramod Sawant, the Chief Minister, but Digambar Kamat (erstwhile Congress) too. In Goa he has a tete-a tete with a journalist, BJP spokesperson and twitter troll extraordinaire Savio Rodriguez. Gopal ji’s profile describes him as the National Secretary of an organization called Rashtriya Yuva Vahini Sangh.
Another song uploaded five months ago, on Sangham Dhum, has 7.45k views. Clearly this is a propaganda song for the ruling dispensation and its ideology of bashing India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Yeh NHehru wala Desh nahi, Ye Modi waala Bharat hai
So why and how is a small-time, right wing politician, with access to big-time right wing politicians investing money in Hindutva pop? Perhaps the answer lies in another question – What is Hindutva pop’s importance in India’s right-wing ecosystem?
SLJ MUSIC PRODUCTION: this channel has 9.87 k subscribers and one of the songs is
Kattar Hindu Vadi Song
Ham Dharm Sanatav Vale Hai
The Upendra Rana Channel (398k subscribers) clearly appeals to Rajput Raghuvanshi ‘superior’ caste identity. The song, uploaded six days ago has already 51k views: highlights BJP, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Yuva Vahini leaders from the same caste: sword-wielding men are seen gathering proudly flexing muscles. The video showcases ‘prominent persons’ from this caste, Raghuvanshi Rajput BJP ‘Neta’, Mukhul Singh Jadhav from Sultanpur (sword wielding, moustache turning) Sandeep Raghavan (Bajrang Dal), Ramu Raghav (Hindu Vahini), Lokesh Raghav etc. Clearly caste presence and consolidation within the wider Hindutva eco-system is a key mobiliser.
Here’s a continuing list of a few recent songs that have used this tactic to spread Hindutva online.
Targeting Opposition and minorities
Singer Radheshyam Pandey “Lallu ji on May 14, 2022 “dedicated” a new song to those who allegedly live in India but support Pakistan. While making this statement at the beginning of the video, Pandey started flashing images of Opposition leaders Mamata Banerjee, Kejriwal, Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav. This is clearly politically divisive and inciteful imagery.
The issues with this video begin not only with its videography but with the song’s lyrics as well that say “Bharat ke gaddaraon hoga tera safaya, khaatma karenge Yogi raj hai aaya” (Traitors of India you will be vanquished, Yogi-raj has started). Beginning with the words “kattar Hindu wadi” in Hindi, the video title also highlights a lyric line “nach re Owaisi nageen jaise” although the song itself alters it as “Abhi nach le vo baisi nageen jaise”. This line in the song is coupled with flashing clips of Owaisi. These lines are echoes from the perpetrators of violence on the streets (for example in February 2020, Delhi violence, Kapil Mishra and Ragini Tiwari.)
The song also allegedly threatens sexual assault against those who “destroyed mandirs”. Once again, Pandey is careful not to specify whom he is talking about. Though it is clear whom he is speaking to. The aggression in the song beams through its lyrics, however.
Dismissing rule of law
On March 31, 2022 singer Ravi Gahlot wrote a song about the “awakening” of Hindus. In a video flooded with saffron images, you can hear men repeatedly chanting, “Hum dharma dhwaj ke vahak hai farman hume kya rokenge, Hum bajrangi ke bhakt nirale gada leke thokenge” (We are the bearers of the religious flag, order can’t stop us. We are Bajrangi bhakts, we will attack with gadas). Gada is the weapon/symbol of Lord Hanuman.
Celebrating the conclusion of the Ayodhya-Babri masjid case, the video stated that the Hindutva force will now move on to Mathura in the line “Ab Mathura ki punyadhara par mandir bhavya banayenge”.
Open threats of aggression
Still another singer Anand Pandey with lyricist Ajay Vishwakarma released a song around April 2022 declaring deep devotion for Lord Ram. Oddly, this song of devotion started with the statement “Kaat dunga mai vo sar jo uthe meri dharma ki aur” (I will sever the heads of any person who rises against my religion”).
Like every other song in this genre, this song too is characterised with a generic party beat and an overload of saffron flags, scarves and other Hindutva symbols.
The spirit of these songs is similar to the early creations of this genre. However, they are nowhere near as threatening.
For example, singer Prem Krishnvanshi on March 30, 2019 released a song openly spewing hate against Muslims. The seven-minute video titled “Hindu ka hai Hindustan, Dallo jao Pakistan” uses violent images of war and army aircrafts. Addressing Muslims, it also said, “Insaan nahi ho saalon ho tum kasai, Bohot hua ab hindu muslim bhai bhai” (You are not humans but butchers, enough of this Hindu-Muslim brotherhood”.
Verses in this song are filled with threats of “death to people” if they do not recite, Vande Mataram and repeated warnings to Muslims to go to Pakistan. At one time, Krishnavanshi even says “mulloh, mar jao jaake Pakistan”. Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government awarded the singer for his song praising Chief Minister Adityanath.
The macabre twist to the devotional Hindu song, bhajan, has been provided by the infamous Hindutva pop singer is Laxmi Dubey who has been sharing music since 2018. Her songs often talk about the domination of the saffron flag in all homes. Her songs call for the militarization of Hinduism. According to some media outlets in the middle east, Dubey is often invited for live shows by leaders of the ruling dispensation. The singer reportedly charges around ₹ 2 lakhs for one concert. The Laxmi Dubey You-Tube channel has 291k subscribers, evidence of political patronage or downright popularity.
Her two-part “bhajan” is one of her most popular song where she declared “Har ghar bhagwa chhayega”. The one uploaded three years ago (2019) has a staggering 64 million views and the later version of the same, uploaded separately two years ago (2020) has a staggering 1.7 million views.
In one song she warns that those who hinder Hindutva rule will not survive. “Ram ji ke taaj mein taang jo adayega maa ki kasam vo zinda nahi jayega”. She then goes on to sing about Kashmir, a goal to create a new India and to end cow slaughter.
The more problematic part of her song comes in the second half where she says that though India is ‘free’, yet Kashmir has not been coloured saffron. She then goes on to issue an ultimatum to the “neighbouring nation” (read Pakistan) to check its behaviour and not be at odds with “Sher (lion) hind (India).” A refrain, in derogatory terms within the song also exhorts that ‘people have to learn to say vande mataram’ and ‘live within their limits’. This is the verse from the song:
“Lalkarti… azadi hai, kyu nahi bhagwa hui Kashmir ki har vaadi hai”
(There is freedom but then why hasn’t every valley of Kashmir turned saffron?)
“Keh do padosi mulk se ki baaz aa jaaye cahal se, Sher hind ke veer hai takraye na mahakal se”
(Warn the neighbouring country, stop their ‘games/tricks’, we are the heroes of Hind, don’t oppose us).
“Hindustan mein rehna ho toh vande mataram kehna seekho, Vande mataram kehna seekhon aur aukat mein rehna seekhon
(Learn to live in Hindustan and say vande mataram, and learn to stay within your limits).
Another clearly divisive song uploaded in 2020 was ‘Makke wale Mecca Jao’ by Kattar Hindu Vadi. His song alludes to the Ayodhya and Babri masjid controversy stating that the land is of Hindu Gods like Ram and Hanuman. In his verses, singer Sandeep Acharya said that those looking for Khuda (God, as defined by Muslims) should go to Mecca. Acharya goes on to say that Hindus never entered masjids, churches or gurudwara and as such, Muslims should not “interfere” with them.
The song essentially motivates a sense communal superiority and even fosters tensions by asking people to not mingle with each other. The lyrics of this song are, “Ayodhya Ram ki hai Rehman kaha se aa tapke, yaha santo mein khaan pathan kahan se aa tapke (Ayodhya belongs to Ram, where did Rehman come from? How did Khan-Pathan end up among saints?)”. Further lyrics say, “Humne tumhare masjid aur majaron mein na haq maanga, Humne kahi bhi church aur gurudwaron mein na haq maanga, Bina bulaye chap rang tum mehmaan kaha se aa tapke (We didn’t ask for our rights in your masjids, we didn’t ask for your rights in churches and gurudwaras, without invitation why did you come here?)
This burgeoning, insidious eco-system of essentially hate-filled and divisive ‘music’ threatens to corrode a public culture already seriously threatened with outright hate speech and worse.
(This entire investigation has been carried out by several members of the CJP Investigation Team)
Connecting the dots to reach the roots
Jo Na Bole Jai Shri Ram, Usko Bhejo Kabristan’ Bhojpuri singer Varun Bahar arrested