“Insaan nahi ho saalo, ho tum kasaayi; Bahut ho chuka Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai” – You are not human, you are butchers; it’s enough of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.
These are the lyrics of a ‘bhajan’ (devotional song) that singer Prem Krishnavanshi posted on YouTube three years ago and has been viewed thousands of times since.
Triggered by contemporary hate politics, Krishnavanshi’s song is a part of a new mass culture in India where anti-Muslim songs are played in rallies by Hindu supremacist groups, mainly in what is called the country’s “Hindi belt” northern states.
Dozens of such music videos can be found on YouTube and other social media platforms, with the supporters of the Hindu far-right loving and sharing them for their messages of hate, abuse and even threats of genocide targeted at the Muslim minority.
Krishnavanshi, an engineering graduate from Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state, wanted to be a Bollywood singer. But it was too competitive. So he turned to live shows and events to make a living.The turning point came in 2014 when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. The arrival of a new government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw an unprecedented polarisation of Indian society, with hate attacks on India’s minorities, mainly Muslims, becoming a near-daily affair since.
In such a scenario, cultural products such as music, poetry and cinema also became the tools by which this politics of hatred is sustained.
In the past few months, India witnessed religious violence in several states during Hindu festivals when right-wing groups held marches in mainly Muslim neighbourhoods and played loud music laced with Islamophobic lyrics outside mosques.
Krishnavanshi sings in Hindi and Bhojpuri languages. His fan base is mainly in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with nearly 205 million residents, governed by the BJP’s saffron-robed Hindu monk, Yogi Adityanath, who is known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.
In many of his songs, Krishnavanshi suggests Muslims are “anti-nationals who should go to Pakistan”. One of his songs says: “Muslims will eventually force Hindus to pray namaz if they don’t wake up soon”.