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Songs in India’s ‘Patriotism Pop’ Genre Are Urging Hindus to Claim Kashmir

Songs about marrying Kashmiri women and buying land there are gathering millions of hits on YouTube and TikTok.

by Shamani Joshi
27 August 2019, 2:17am

Photo: Screenshot of video posted by Nardev Bainiwal on Youtube 

This article originally appeared on VICE India

Just hours after India’s Modi government announced that they were revoking Article 370, taking away the special status conferred to Kashmir, a bunch of unsettling songs about claiming Kashmir began to pop up. These music videos, that have been going around on social media platforms including Facebook and TikTok, as well as YouTube, are part of a genre called ‘patriotism pop’ which is tinged with nationality, promotes right-wing ideology and is quickly gaining clout in the country.

These problematic songs wax lyrical about buying land in Kashmir and the Indian man’s eagerness to marry Kashmiri girls so they can inherit all their property or just because they are ‘fair'.

Songs in this genre, which were earlier related to the rise of Hindu nationalism in India and taking down Pakistan to unite the country, are like a low-production acid trip and usually see poorly lip-synched lyrics in a green-screen set-up featuring a bass-filled autotune on overdrive. But the burgeoning genre is finding a lot of new support in a country where over 200 million people have YouTube subscriptions, and about 120 million of them actively use platforms like TikTok. The reach of these songs hits hard in regions in the north and east of India, and those who make them are fast getting all the attention.

Nitesh Singh Nirmal, a singer, producer and composer in the genre, as well as a Modi fan, was one of the first to make a song on the Kashmir situation called "Dhara 370" or "Article 370". Featuring fluttering flags and cutaways hyping up Prime Minister Narendra Modi to thank him for keeping his promise to revoke Article 370 along with brief mentions of the country’s triumph over Pakistan, the video has now gone viral with over a million hits on YouTube, even though Nirmal doesn’t have the first clue about how to actually sing.

"I am doing service for the nation. People dance to these songs," he told AP, talking about how making songs on the Hindu identity that everyone can relate to is his claim to fame. But he isn’t the only one.

Not only is TikTok flooded with Hindu nationalist sentiments about Kashmir, but also others like Salman Siddiqui—a student who collaborated with Nirmal— make music about an Indian man’s desire to tie the knot with a Kashmiri girl. Although they insist that such songs are not sexist, critics say this idea of treating marriage as a business proposal to “reclaim” the region objectifies Kashmiri women to the point of dehumanising them. Political anthropologist Ather Zia calls this a "fetishisation in the Indian imagination" and stresses that such songs are a "culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from humiliating Kashmiri women.”

This also comes in light of the idea of marrying Kashmiri women emerging as a top search on Google, with a political leader having even urged the youth to “marry the fair girls of Kashmir.”

Even as some artists oppose writing these songs, they point out how their audience is pretty much asking for them. "I am personally against such declarations, but if we don't make these songs, someone else will and we will lose out on money," says Haryana-based singer Nardev Bainiwal, whose song celebrating the Article’s revocation has garnered about 1.9 million hits on YouTube.

Meanwhile, Nirmal is already preparing a song about the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, so he can be the first one to blast it out if the Supreme Court allows the temple to be built on the disputed land. Nirmal, who is already getting offers to perform at concerts, says, “The business is booming.”

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