Activists up in arms against “sexist” Punjabi singers

January 03, 2013 11:18 pm | Updated June 12, 2016 07:47 pm IST - CHANDIGARH:

Despite vehement protests against the screening of their films and songs, the latest number by Punjabi rappers Yo Yo Honey Singh and Jazzy B, who are known for their controversial, sexist lyrics, received over a million hits in YouTube within 80 hours of its launch.

While Istri Jagriti Manch, a women’s group, has been protesting against what it describes as provocative, offensive, vulgar, and obscene songs by various pop singers, for nearly a year, the movement seems to have gained momentum in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape with several organisations and associations joining the cause.

These organisations met at the Punjab Press Club in Jalandhar on Wednesday and decided to float a forum that would pursue the matter and get cases registered against Honey Singh, Jazzy B and Diljit Dosanjh. They also decided to oppose the screening of their films as well as picket the venues of their stage shows.

Cultural pollution

The Istri Jagran Manch chief Charanjit Kaur Barnala has been quoted as describing the lyrics of some of their songs as intolerable and said that the videos released by these and other singers amounted to cultural pollution that adversely impacted young minds. The Manch linked the work of these singers to the recent rise in crimes against women.

Newly appointed head of the Research and Resources’ cell of the Punjabi Sahit Academy, Janmeja Singh Johl, has sought the implementation of existing legal provisions to draw a line between entertainment and indecency. He blamed the unscrupulous or “fly-by-night” music companies for the present situation, asthey seek to promote insensitive and unqualified people to earn a fast buck. “Please check, these so-called artists do not survive more than 2-4 years, when the promoter begins to look for fresh talent,” he pointed out, listing the names of “genuine” artists who attained legendary status as they provided entertainmentthat fell within the confines of ethical and cultural values.

Mr. Johl, however, did not agree with the view that these singers were merely aping the West. He argued that far more restrictions were imposed on content used for entertainment in those countries and accepted that such forms of entertainment did impact the minds of the youth, as it provided easier solutions to major issues of life.

On the other hand, noted commentator and the director of the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) Pramod Kumar pointed out that use of sexist and double-meaning lyrics had been prevalent ever since the entertainment industry began evolving.Though Dr. Kumar is opposed to an outright ban, he advocated the need to put in place some regulatory system that could either be institutionalised on the lines of the Censor Board for films, or some internal mechanism. He supported the need for minimum boundaries to ensure that entertainment content was gender sensitive.

Blames it on commodification

Art and culture critic Vandana Dixit linked the overall degeneration to thedevelopment model, where everything, including women, was a commodity. “You ask the singer of a vulgar reference in a song, he shifts the blame to the writer, who in turn blames the music company that hired him. The company quotes the market trends. And who forms the market,” she asked, cautioning that banning rappers like Honey Singh and Jazzy B would provide a precedent for those who were seeking “moral policing” to control society.

“If these songs had such a sway, one wonders why we did not have revolutionaries mushrooming up a couple of years ago when there were a series of movies on patriotism, especially [on] Shaheed Bhagat Singh.”

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