Hindutva pop amplifies a wave of hate songs in Modi’s India: NYT

NEW YORK, Nov 11 (APP): A report in a leading American newspaper has focused attention on how Indian singer Laxmi Dubey is currently promoting Hindutva pop music in India, especially violent songs that openly call for “harsher action against Pakistan and separatist Kashmiri militants, and for forced conversions and a Hindu settlement campaign in Kashmir.”

The report in The New York Times said that mixing dance tracks with calls for religious warfare, the Hindutva pop amplifies a wave of Hindu nationalism in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India.

“Every house will be saffron!” Ms Dubey yelled into her microphone at a concert in Raipur, capital of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, referring to the colour representing Hinduism, the report said. “We have to make terrorists run from our blessed land!”

“The crowd cheered when she added a throat-slitting hand gesture,” the Times correspondent, Kai Schultz, wrote.

Ms Dubey is one of the biggest stars driving the rise of Hindutva pop music in India over the past few years, the report said, noting that the music sets traditional Hindu religious stories or Bollywood clips to dance beats,”with added lyrics that in some cases openly call for the slaughter of nonbelievers, forced conversions, or attacks on Pakistan.”

Correspondent Schultz wrote: “The songs are amassing huge numbers of views on YouTube, Ms Dubey’s most popular song has more than 50 million on its own, and a growing fan base among the young.

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“Muslims and other minorities fear that some of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist supporters are damaging the country’s secular foundation and making life dangerous for any who do not display extreme patriotism or Hindu religious fervor. These concerns were only heightened with a court decision Saturday in favour of Hindus over a contested holy site (referring to the Babri mosque).

“During Hindu festivals, the processions have started blasting the music in Muslim neighbourhoods in shows of intimidation. Most of the songs prominently feature the call of ‘Jai Shri Ram!’ Meaning ‘Hail Lord Ram,’ a major Hindu god, it has become the battle cry for Hindu nationalists. Mobs have attacked Muslims who refuse to chant it along with them.”

The Times quoted T M Krishna, one of India’s most renowned traditional singers, as saying, “Hate bundled with so-called faith has become par for the course today. The masks are off, and what we are seeing should deeply worry us.”

The report said: Ms Dubey, a gleeful provocateur, travels India with a 28-person troupe and is in such demand that families invite her to their homes to bless newborn babies.’

Her goal, she said in an interview with The New York Times, is to recruit foot soldiers to make India a Hindu nation. At least one state government dominated by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has used public money to stage her performances.

“Hindus used to be too innocent and docile to understand that Muslims are the biggest threat,” Ms Dubey was quoted as saying. “They needed someone like Laxmi Dubey to wake them up.”

“Some of the most violent expressions in Hindutva pop focus on Kashmir, the Muslim-majority territory that is disputed by Pakistan and that was stripped of its autonomy by Modi’s government in August. Popular lyrics call for harsher action against Pakistan and separatist Kashmiri militants, and for forced conversions and a Hindu settlement campaign in Kashmir,” the Times said.

“For some of the millions of Indian Muslims, those hyper-patriotic expressions are seen as carrying a personal threat.”

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Correspondent Schultz went on to say, “In one music video, Sanjay Faizabadi, another popular Hindutva pop artist, lunges toward the camera in military fatigues. Footage of Indian troops, exploding planes and a pack of lions punctuates the song, called ‘Kashmir Is Our Life.’

“I will come to Pakistan and play marbles with your eyes!” he sings, boasting in a subsequent verse of waging a campaign of sexual conquest there.

In an interview with the Times, Faizabadi conceded that his lyrics could give the impression that he supported violence. But the singer insisted that he had nothing against Muslims, only those who spread terrorism.

“I’m Modi’s devotee, but I’m not anybody’s adversary,” he said. “You can label me Hindutva, but I don’t spite those who are not.”

The Times said, “The far right has never been more emboldened in India. Some of the top figures in Modi’s government have repeatedly referred to immigrants as termites, threatened the citizenship status of hundreds of thousands of Muslims and encouraged vigilante violence against those accused of slaughtering cows, a sacred animal for Hindus. (Most butchers in India are Muslims or from lower castes.)

“This summer, the police arrested several musicians for recording a song urging Hindus to kill those who do not chant, ‘Jai Shri Ram!’

“Ms Dubey’s biggest hits feature that chant prominently, and she is outspoken about her intention to incite a revolution through Hindutva pop.

“In her songs, Ms Dubey exhorts Hindus to ‘perform ceremonies with bullets,’ ‘fight proudly against ungodly religions’ and ‘cut off the tongues of enemies who talk against Ram’.”

Ms Dubey, according to the Times, drew closer to extremist Hindu circles and began subscribing to a belief that Muslims planned to take over India by marrying and converting Hindu women. “To show her devotion, she vowed to remain single and moved away from estranged relatives to the nearby city of Jabalpur, where she persuaded 11 girls living in poverty to make a home with her and become disciples.

“She spent a few years making music and putting it on YouTube, then found a surging popularity after Modi rose to power in 2014. Ms Dubey and several people who work for her said she regularly performs for officials from his Bharatiya Janata Party.”

“We go wherever BJP leaders invite us to perform,” Ms Dubey was quoted as saying. “That’s because the BJP is helping to propagate Hindutva.”

In the state of Chhattisgarh, where Ms Dubey often sings, Rahul Singh, a director in the culture department, confirmed that his office had paid for some of her concerts, according to the report. But he said he did not know much about her. Two state politicians from the BJP said they knew the singer but denied support, though party leaders promoted her music ahead of national elections this year.

The report said: Her performances draw thousands of people. One show in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, was marketed as a jagrata, an all-night vigil dedicated to deities.

But the singer’s tone shifted after midnight, when most of the youngest children had gone to bed.

Turning her attention to the beef industry, which employs many Muslims, Ms Dubey encouraged the crowd to take action to protect cows, echoing comments by Hindu mobs that have killed dozens of minorities accused of slaughtering cattle.

“People who I give milk to have become my butcher,” she was quoted as saying, channeling the animal. “Become a cow protector and fulfill your promise.”

Ms. Dubey transitioned to one of her most popular songs, “Every House Will Be Saffron,” a YouTube juggernaut that has inspired covers sung by children. During interludes, the singer promised to target those “living in Kashmir, exploding things” and to “spill blood in mother’s holy court.”

“The song’s tempo picked up. Clusters of men rose and danced,” the report said, adding, “Ms. Dubey drew her arm back and let go of an imaginary arrow.”

“People who don saffron will rule!” she screamed. “Only one slogan, only one name: Jai Shri Ram! Jai Shri Ram!

 

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