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Indian ‘patriotism-pop’ songs urge Hindus to marry Kashmiri women

'Patriotic' songs about Kashmir have flooded Indian social media [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 August, 2019

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Following Indian Prime Minister Modi’s move to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, wildly popular songs have appeared on social media calling for Indians to settle in Kashmir and marry Kashmiri women.

The music videos began appearing on social media within hours of an announcement by India's Hindu nationalist-led government that it was stripping statehood from the disputed region of Kashmir that had been in place for decades.

The songs delivered a message to India's 250 million YouTube users about moving to the Muslim-majority region, buying land there and marrying Kashmiri women.

It's the latest example of a growing genre in India known as "patriotism pop" - songs flooding social media to promote the country's burgeoning Hindu nationalist ideology.

Earlier songs were limited to addressing the rise of Hindus in India, defeating regional rival Pakistan and hoisting the Indian flag in every household. But now, the tracks include settling in Kashmir - a rugged and beautiful Himalayan region claimed by both Pakistan and India, although both countries control only a portion of it.

On Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir's decades-old special status that was guaranteed under Article 370 of India's Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region. The territory was placed under a security lockdown, communications and the Internet were cut, and thousands of people were arrested.

One of Modi's revisions allows anyone to buy land in the disputed territory, which some Kashmiris fear could mean an influx of Hindus who would change the region's culture and demographics. Critics have likened it to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. For decades, India has refused to abide by a UN Security Council resolution calling for a plebiscite to determine Kashmir’s fate.

The patriotic songs are mostly shared on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the fast-growing app TikTok, which in June had about 120 million active users in India. Despite their low production values, poorly matched lip-syncing and repetitive techno beat, many of these soundtracks have garnered millions of hits on YouTube.

The songs are a particular hit among youthful followers in northern and eastern parts of India, and with such obvious popularity on the rise, creators are from done with the new craze.

Nitesh Singh Nirmal identifies himself as a producer, songwriter and composer for his Rang Music studios in the eastern state of Bihar. A Modi admirer, Nirmal claims to be the first to produce a soundtrack on the revocation of Kashmir's statehood, completing it in three hours.

The song, "Dhara 370," or "Article 370," starts with visuals of an Indian flag fluttering atop New Delhi's famous Red Fort, followed by old footage of Modi from a previous Independence Day ceremony. The singer thanks Modi and his government for keeping his promise to remove Article 370 from the constitution. The video then cuts to the map of Kashmir, along with words that roughly translate to 'How Pakistan has lost to India.'

The song has gathered more than 1.6 million hits on YouTube since it was posted there by Nirmal, who has no musical background. He said he only found his calling when Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party resoundingly won the 2014 election.

That's when Nirmal thought he could write songs about nationalism.

"I am doing a service for the nation. People dance to these songs," he says.

Read more: Kashmir, genocide, and the spirit of resistance

Racist and sexist tropes

Salman Siddiqui, who is in his 20s and studies science in the state of Uttar Pradesh, wanted to showcase his musical writing prowess and contacted Nirmal. They collaborated on a song about a man who is seeking a Kashmiri bride and wants to be the first to have a wedding procession that travels from India to the region.

"It's the desire of a young man's heart to marry a Kashmiri woman," Siddiqui says.

The idea was boosted on August 6 by lawmaker Vikram Saini, who told members of his Bharatiya Janata Party "eager to get married" to go to Kashmir, adding that his party has "no problem with it."

Critics say the idea of marrying Kashmiri women to "reclaim" the region is sexist and rooted in patriarchy that objectifies and dehumanises Kashmiris.

Political anthropologist Ather Zia calls this a "fetishisation in the Indian imagination."

Such songs are a "culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from humiliating Kashmiri women," Zia said.

"The Indian media - from news to entertainment - has left no stone unturned in portraying Kashmiri women in the racist trope of 'coveted fair-skinned ones' (and) at the same time being helpless and needing saving from their own men - all this while demonizing Kashmiri men," she said.

Nirmal says that since he published his song on August 5, he has earned nearly $100 for work that cost him about $20 to produce.

"The business," Nirmal adds, "is booming."

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