Behind ‘Bhagwa’ Music: How Hate Is Being Sold As Entertainment
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan & Aishwarya S Iyer
A closer look at ‘Bhagwa’ and ‘Hinduvaadi’ music – with its upbeat Bhojpuri tunes and views running from thousands to lakhs – exposes how it has begun to make use of lyrics and imagery that promote enmity among religions.
Take, for instance, Lucknow-based singer Prem Krishnanshi’s song, with the lyrics, “Hindu Ka hai Hindustan, Da#@! jao Pakistan. Hindu ka hai Hindustan, mu@#! jaao Pakistan. (Hindustan belongs to Hindus, pimps and Muslims [referred to with a communal slur] go to Pakistan.” This video has over 70 lakh views on YouTube.
While this is just one example, there are many more such ‘hate’ videos. Alongside the hate speech, there is also hate imagery in these songs – of swords, sticks, threatening stills of people being lynched, being brutally beaten, the demolition of Babri Masjid. Many such similar themes have been deployed. Despite that, the three singers The Quint profiled have never had a case of hate speech slapped against them.
The 3 ‘Bhagwa’ Singers
1. THE ORIGINAL TRENDSETTER OF ANTI-MUSLIM BHAGWA MUSIC
“You are talking to Sandeep Acharya. The Hinduvaadi songs you are seeing sung by as many as 150, 200 and 500 singers, all of them have copied me. Five to seven years ago I started this trend.”
That’s how Acharya, who is extremely proud of his music, introduces himself to this reporter.
Ayodhya-based Acharya is a member of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a group considered close to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and that has thousands of members across UP. With over 44,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel at last count, Acharya’s videos regularly receive lakhs of views. He told The Quint he makes Rs 45,000 each from his monetised videos on YouTube, and another Rs 40,000-45,000 for every stage performance. He also gets donations from his fans to produce these songs. He releases two to three songs every month.
2. THE BHOJPURI MUSIC CONVERT WITH GLARING ISLAMOPHOBIA
“First, I used to sing Bhojpuri songs and a lot of my songs got published, but after that, I felt drawn to Hindutva. So this is how I started singing Hinduvaadi music... to awaken our religion, our Sanatan Dharam, which is why I began singing,” says Prem Krishnavanshi, who hails from Lucknow in UP.
Krishnavanshi was a computer science engineer working at a private company in Lucknow till mid-2019. He left all of it to focus on his Hinduvaadi music. He has over 33K subscribers on YouTube and makes Rs 25-30,000 for every performance. He performs at Hindu religious gatherings and churns out 5-7 songs every month.
3. THE COMPARATIVELY SENSIBLE, BUT 'KATTAR HINDU'
“Breaking the Babri Masjid down was correct. It was not a masjid at all. It was nothing,” says Pawan Verma while defending his song, which celebrates the ‘sacrifice’ made by karsevaks during the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992.
The inspiration for his music comes from issues that have been rallying points for Hindu fundamentalism for decades, like the Ram Janmabhoomi issue.
Despite laws that are meant to tackle hate speech, not one case has been slapped against any of these singers. There are, in fact, multiple provisions of the Indian Penal Code that such hate songs are squarely in breach of:
Section 153A, which looks at content that promotes or attempts to promote hatred between religious groups. The punishment for this is upto three years and a fine. If this promotion of enmity is done in a place of worship, then the punishment is upto five years with a fine.
Section 295A, which deals with insulting religion or religious beliefs with an intent to outrage. This is punishable by upto three years in jail and a fine.
Section is 505(2), under which statements that create or promote enmity and hatred on the grounds of religion are punishable with upto three years in jail and a fine.
But in full view of the law, these singers continue to expand their collection of songs and spew hatred unchecked, for profit. And the less said about their fans, the better.