Ever since Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in India, there has been a rise in the production of Hindutva pop and anti-Muslim music. What was earlier fringe has now become mainstream. Blazing anti-Muslim music that caters to Hindutva ideology during Hindu festivals and other functions organized by Hindutva ideologues is very common. Every day, Hindutva watchers on Twitter share several video clips of Hindutva supporters dancing to these hateful songs. Recently, during the Hindu festival of Ram Navami, a video clip shared on Twitter showed a large crowd of Hindutva supporters dancing and grooving to a song titled “Miyan Madarchod hain” (Muslims are motherfuckers). Similarly, in a video from Lucknow where Muslims had set up stalls to serve juice to celebratory Hindus, there is a song playing in the background, “Our swords will speak, Hindustan will speak and Topiwalas (Muslims) will bow their heads and say Jay Shree Ram too”.
This provocative music has led to communal riots in many places. During the Ram Navami festival, Hindutva supporters were seen gathering in front of mosques, chanting slogans and playing music that demonized Muslims. There were also many incidences of Hindutva supporters taking out their processions through Muslim majority areas and blazing out anti-Muslim songs in order to provoke Muslims.
India has also had a history of gun violence through means of the infamous acts of celebratory gun firing. In various videos of the right-wing processions, Hindutva supporters are seen carrying guns and pistols unapologetically that they are brandishing while singing to the music of anti-Muslim hate.
Also read: Hindutva Pop: Anti-Muslim Music in India
Hindutva Pop Singers
Al Jazeera recently published a report on Hindutva pop singers who produce this anti-Muslim music in India. Most of these singers are supported and endorsed by the ruling party BJP and its Hindutva supporters.
Krishnavanshi is a Hindutva pop singer from BJP ruled Uttar Pradesh. He wanted to become a Bollywood Singer but due to fierce competition, he turned to this new genre of Hindutva pop. He has been pretty successful after his shift to Hindutva pop music. His songs contain a warning for Hindus to wake up before Muslims force them to offer Namaz. In many of his songs, he alleges that Muslims are “anti-nationals” who should go to Pakistan. He was recently awarded by the state government of Uttar Pradesh for his song praising the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Laxmi Dubey is a female Hindutva pop singer from Madhya Pradesh. She has been singing anti-Muslim songs since 2014. One of her songs is “Agar Hindustan mein rehna hoga, To vande mataram kehna hoga” (If you want to stay in India, then praise the motherland). Dubey has a YouTube channel with 2.39K subscribers. During the 2019 general elections, she uploaded a song on her YouTube channel titled “Phir Modi Ko Lana hai” (We have to elect Modi again). The song praises Modi for his supposedly good work. As of now, the song has garnered more than 5.3 million views. The female singer has given her performance at many functions organized by Hindutva supporters and BJP leaders.
Another Hindutva pop singer is Upendra Rana from Uttar Pradesh. His Hindutva pop journey started in 2017. He has 370K subscribers on YouTube. One of his famous songs is “Dharm ke naam zameen gayi, Islami mulk banaye” (In the name of their religion, we lost our land; they made it an Islamic nation). The video for this song has Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand brandishing a sword.
The lyrics of Hindutva pop songs use the trope of stereotypical words and phrases commonly used to refer to Muslims based on their religious identity and lifestyles like the word “Kasaayi” meaning butcher, which not only reduces Muslims to their eating habits but also dehumanizes them based on them. They also take a dig at the apparently celebrated notion of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood being the essence of democracy in India- “Bahut ho chuka Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai” (Enough of this Hindu Muslim brotherhood now).
Why should Hindutva Pop worry us?
The most disturbing part about the production of these hateful songs is the amount of audience that it attracts. Names like Sandeep Acharya, Prem Khrishnavanshi, and Pawan Verma that were unknown in the mainstream music industry of India till lately, are gaining rapid popularity with a fan following that goes beyond lakhs. These self-proclaimed singers have gained massive fandom solely based on Hindutva pop songs that not only hurt the Muslim religious sentiments but are outrightly threatening the Muslim community. The rate of production and public approval of this kind of Islamophobic music is seen to be the inception of the Hindutva music industry.
Hindutva pop used to be fringe but it has now become mainstream. Earlier, it used to be produced by political parties, mostly during election campaigns. However, of late there has been mass production of Hindutva pop and anti-Muslim music. It has become a new cultural phenomenon and Hindu extremists now play this music during Hindu festivals, religious processions, and even Hindu weddings. Whether it is during festivals or smaller intimate gatherings like wedding ceremonies, this music has become a customary practice which makes sure that the “othering” of Muslims happens.
Legally speaking, even though most of the Hindutva pop comes under hate speech, the government or the social media websites do not seem to care about it. The BJP-led government in fact awards endorses and supports these singers. They are invited to the functions administered by Hindutva organizations, as well as other small-scale factions that work under the BJP and get highly paid to perform.
Normalization of Islamophobia
India is currently witnessing a phase of gross normalization of such Islamophobic content through the medium of songs that are easily blended into pop culture music. It should go without mentioning that the target audience for this kind of hateful music is the majority Hindu population of India, and these singers are giving their music a sacrilegious tone quite literally by playing the sound of temple bells in the background. To go with the offensive lyrics and instigating sounds, the videos of these songs are as provocative as they can get. Dressed in saffron-coloured clothes with images of Hindu gods like Ram displayed in the background, these self-proclaimed singers attempt to display themselves as the warriors of Hindutva.
Music and Genocide
Hindutva pop is eerily reminiscent of the music that was produced in Nazi Germany and during the Rwanda genocide. Under the Nazi regime, “music and song forged community, camaraderie and shared purpose.” Music was not limited to being a mere form of entertainment. It was used to promote a shared cause and bring people together. Similarly, the role of music in the Rwanda genocide was crucial. For Tutsi survivors in Rwanda, “genocide was like a festival”.
Genocides happen on a sliding scale. It is common knowledge that hate propaganda precedes genocide. Music also forms a part of the hate propaganda that caters to the genocidal tendencies of a population. Many experts have warned that what is happening in India might culminate in a genocide.
The emerging Hindutva music industry is following in the footsteps of the Nazis, who also utilized a combination of provocative music to go with mass gatherings to normalize and celebrate violence. The Nazi rule, much like the Hindutva used songs to help them forge a sense of community-based on the common purpose of inflicting violence. Music was more than just a means of entertainment in public places and even at the execution sites. It was also used as a weapon for bringing people together and promoting violence. Hindutva has also weaponized music in India in the form of Hindutva pop to serve their ulterior and violent motives against Muslims.