The wife of singer Hirdesh Singh – who goes by the stage name Yo Yo Honey Singh – has accused him of domestic abuse and mental torture.
Singh is one of India’s highest paid and most popular rappers, with one of his latest songs exceeding 100 million views on YouTube. Singh has often courted controversy for his misogynistic and sexist lyrics that critics have called “vulgar” and “incendiary.”
In a legal petition, Singh’s wife Shalini Talwar said she was “subjected to numerous incidents of physical abuse, verbal, mental abuse and emotional abuse” by her husband, his younger sister, and his parents. She accused the rapper of alcoholism and adultery, and said he had “casual sex with multiple women” while refusing to take his wife on singing tours. She added that he grew “rude and aggressive” towards her once his career took off.
In her plea, she also stated that Singh “showed no shame in attacking, browbeating, manhandling, cheating and causing irreparable harm to the woman he was supposed to cherish and protect.”
Talwar alleged that when she contracted COVID-19 last April, Singh neither took care of her nor helped her find a hospital, even as her oxygen levels fell dangerously low. Amid all this, the singer continued to share coronavirus SOS alerts on social media, Talwar added.
Singh also forced her to quit her job, and once locked her up in her room without food for almost 18 hours, Talwar said.
Singh tried to keep their marriage a secret, and he assaulted her when he thought she had leaked their wedding photos to the media, Talwar said in her plea.
According to the petition, Singh often made derogatory and vulgar comments about women in his songs to gain popularity. “The lyrics of the song coupled with the recent changed behaviour made the applicant feel that the said songs were not just artistic licence but a reflection of his own disrespect and misogynistic tendencies towards women at large and his wife in particular.”
Talwar has demanded a compensation of Rs 200 million ($2.6 million) as well as a monthly alimony of Rs 500,000 ($6,738).
The court has issued a notice to Singh, and given the singer until August 28 to file his response.
Yo Yo Honey Singh shot to fame in 2011 following his song “Dope Shope” and his frequent forays into Bollywood. He has previously opened up about being bipolar, and had checked himself into a rehab in 2014 to get treated.
Activists have criticised his song lyrics for favourably depicting violence against women and rape. In 2013, he sparked controversy with the lyrics of his song “Main Hoon Balatkari (I am a rapist).” In one of his most popular songs, “Brown Rang,” he asks a girl to be his “whore” and says he has a “right on her.”
Following the 2012 Nirbhaya case – where a girl was gang raped while returning home on a bus in India’s capital Delhi – social activists petitioned and succeeded in getting Honey Singh’s New Year performance at a hotel cancelled.
Singh has been accused of objectifying women through songs like “Blue Eyes,” which likened the body of a woman wearing a “chhoti dress (short dress)” to a “bomb.” In 2019, the Punjab Women’s Commission filed a complaint against the singer for using vulgar lyrics against women in his song “Makhna,” in which he calls himself a “womaniser.”
In 2013, writer Annie Zaidi wrote an “Open Letter to Honey Singh” asking him to stop and calling out the record labels and event planners who profited from his misogynistic music. In 2015, a college student named Rene Sharanya Verma went viral for a rap that parodied Singh’s problematic songs from a feminist perspective.