A review of H-Pop: The Secretive World of Hindutva Pop Stars by Kunal Purohit, published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2023
Ever since the advent of DJ music, violence during the Ram Navami celebrations has acquired a new dimension. Kunal Purohit, the author of ‘H-POP: The Secretive World of Hindutva Pop Stars’ was intrigued as to how a peaceful shobha yatra suddenly turns violent when it passes by a mosque. He went into the dusty lanes and by-lanes of nondescript towns and investigated. What he came to know appalled him. On one fateful day he watched as the procession neared the mosque. Suddenly the ear-splitting, metallic music was on belching out filthy, offensive song targeting the ‘other’ community. The language of the songs were utterly offensive and threatening - ‘agar chhua mandir toh tujhe dikha denge’, chant ‘Vande Mataram or leave the country’ or ‘throw the skull-cap to the ground’ etc. Instantly the peaceful processionists turned into a mob, their body-language became aggressive, they became abusive and unruly attacking the bystanders and the holy building. Listening to the songs Purohit found them utterly humiliating replete with common galis (abusive words) used to demean the minority community.
Welcome to the world of Hindutva Pop which, day in and day out, is being used to inject animosity, prejudice, hate for the ‘other’ into the society. It has become a part of everyday life and we don’t have even an inkling of how it is silently poisoning our society. The caller tune of the author’s driver was revealing - har ghar bhagwa chhayega (saffron will reign supreme in every house). This is just an instance of how a particular kind of thinking is becoming omnipresent. The target of this incessant verbal and visual poison, in the form of music, poetry, books and videos is the ‘other’. The ‘other’, according to Sandeep Deo, author, You Tuber, Hindutvavadi entrepreneur is the Panchmakkar, makkar loosely meaning frauds or tricksters. Sandeep explains that in the eighth century Adi Shankaracharya had waged a battle against Tantric Buddhism which consisted of Panchmakara or five debased elements. Posing as a present-day avatar, Sandeep exclaims that now the society has to be cleansed of contemporary Panchmakkar, that is Masih-waad or missionaries, Marxwaad, Macaulay-waad, Mohammad-waad and Tukde-tukde gangs which include urban-naxals, maobaadi etc.
Sandeep shot into the limelight with his first book, Sajish ki kahani, tathyo ki zubani, which describes the documented evidence of the Gujarat pogroms as a conspiracy against Narendra Modi. Sandeep believes himself to be a warrior fighting against the West, Islam, mainstream media and the likes of Amazon and Netflix which are obstructing or polluting Hindutva. He has his own publishing company, YouTube channel and also a website. Needless to say all these propagate Hindutva views. For instance some of his books and news titles are, Kaun Kehta Hai Akbar Mahan Tha or ‘Shocking Ground Stories of Conversion’! His publishing company Kapot sells over 2200 titles and his YouTube channel shows subscription of 3.51 lakhs and is said to be earning Rs 25 lakhs a year. But he is not satisfied. He believes platforms like Amazon and Flipkart by monopolising e-commerce are dictating what Indians should eat, buy or read. So he has publicly boycotted these ‘anti-Hindu’ sites and launched his own platform. Gradually it has evolved into a swadeshi site selling Diwali lights and myriad materials required for a Hindu puja. But again this is not enough. He is alarmed by the rising popularity of the OTT platforms which he believes are out to ‘corrupt’ the Indian family system, claiming that it is due to these OTT that marital rape is becoming an issue in the Supreme Court. So now his aim is to launch a Hindu OTT. But his dream is to take this cultural war offline too. He will open centres in towns and neighbourhoods which will of course sell books and thereby Hindu Shastra but also impart Shastra, the use of weapons. In this way Sandeep has become the archetypal Hindutva man waging a violent cultural war through a gamut of communication channels.
Kavi Singh has become a foot-soldier of the same cultural war through her songs. Her career took off the day forty paramilitary soldiers were ambushed and killed at Pulwama. Her father and guide Ramkesh Jiwanpurwala, a popular Haryanvi singer and actor himself, overnight acquired a poem written on the ghastly incident. He composed a tune for it and got it sung and videoed by Kavi in a local studio. The poem was divisive, laying the blame for the attack squarely on the local Kashmiris:
Is dhoke ke hamle mein jo apno ka kaam nahi hota
Pulwama mein un veeron ka yeh anjaam nahi hota
[If our own hadn’t helped carry this attack,
Pulwama wouldn’t have seen the blood of our bravehearts spilled.]
The video became viral. There were attacks on Kashmiris in many states. Kavi Singh became a star.
Kavi’s hatred is based on myths. No matter what the facts are, she wholeheartedly believes that they want to increase their numbers, kill Hindus and grab everything. So she sings ‘Sacche Hindustani --- jansankhya kanoon lao, desh bachao. When Article 370 was abolished, again overnight the father-daughter duo composed a song, got it videoed and once again it was a roaring hit.
Nor will stones be hurled anymore, nor will happiness escape,
In the Kashmir valley, chants of Shri Ram will be heard.
Likewise she rails against Love Jihad, Islamic conspiracy, and campaigns for Yogi Adityanath in elections,
Jo Ram ko laaye hai, hum unko layenge
UP mein phir se hum bhagwa lehrayenge
Presently Kavi has over a million subscribers on her YouTube channel. Besides she has eight lakh followers of her Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The third person Purohit highlights in his book is the poet Kamal Agney. The author attends a Kavi Sammelan at Ghaziabad. The event has been organised by Yati Narsinghanand, notorious for his provocative remarks against Muslims. As the ‘sant’ garlands Kamal, it becomes clear that he is the star attraction of the Sammelan. The year was 2017 and Pragya Thakur had not yet made her infamous comment about Gandhi’s assassin being a patriot. But here was this poet eulogising the great patriot ‘Pandit’ Godse and blaming Mahatma Gandhi for various ills of the freedom movement. The crowd roared in approval as he thundered, ‘Gandhi had eternal love, but only for the crescent and star’. Gandhi’s heart was with the Muslims he claimed:
Pakistanis were sending back butchered bodies of Hindus on trains,
His heart felt nothing for the shikha, but for the skullcap it felt pain.
And so Nathu took the ultimate step
-the poet recites delving into Godse’s mind -
And pumped a bullet so hard that Gandhi finally remembered Lord Ram.
Kamal finishes off in a flourish as he justifies Godse’s actions,
Agar Godse ki goli utri na hoti seene mein
Toh har Hindu padhta namaz, Mecca aur Medine mein (had Godse not managed to kill Gandhi, every Hindu would today be offering prayers in Mecca and Madina).
Kavi Sammelans are becoming very popular in the Hindi heartland. There is a channel named ‘Namokar Channels Pvt. Ltd ’ which has over 1.93 million followers. Kamal’s poem on Godse was shared online by Namokar. It went viral notching up 4.5 million views on YouTube.
Using books, poetry, music and now videos to propagate a thought, world-view, politics or philosophy has been in vogue for centuries. But using the same for sinister, ulterior motives has been a more recent phenomenon. Such genres are purposefully used to demonise the ‘other’ and provoke violence. In the West, Hate music is said to have prospered for decades. In the early 1980s there was a band named ‘Skrewdriver’ in UK which promoted neo-nazi and anti-semitic ideologies through their music. Jonathan Pieslak writes in his book ‘Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War’ how heavy metal and rap music was used to inspire soldiers for combat. The author states how such music prepares a state of mind that was ‘necessary for killing’. Hate music which is neo-nazi, white supremacist in content and is racist, anti-migrant and anti-LGBTQ is a global phenomenon. Purohit writes that poetry too has been used to indoctrinate people with extremist ideologies. Even Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are said to have penned jihadi poetry.
In India blatantly communal propaganda took off during the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement in the early 1990s. “...the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) uses the media in a distinctive way. Political parties and individuals ...used the media for electoral purposes alone...On the other hand, the VHP broadcasts a vision of Indian history extending to the present. Using all the media techniques at its disposal - dramatic sequences, editing, music, commentary, etc. - it tries to project its world-view as the natural source of the country’s heritage… The persuasive powers of these media products should not be underestimated.” (Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags Tapan Basu, Pradip Dutta, Tanika Sarkar, Sumit Sarkar, Sambuddha Sen, 1993)
It’s clear that the likes of Kavi, Kamal and Sandeep are taking the propaganda leviathan of the Sangh Parivar forward. On the one hand the latter is promulgating stringent laws to stifle all channels of communication to shut out any thought or opinion that is not in sync with Hindutva, on the other they themselves are utilising every possible option to propagate their regressive anti-minority, anti-secular views. In the face of this onslaught progressives have only one alternative: to build and promote alternative communication channels; to counter poetry with poetry, music with music, videos with videos and books with more books.