Hindu nationalism in India

India's hate-filled "saffron pop"

In India, ultra-nationalist musicians are providing a soundtrack for Hindu extremists with songs that glorify violence. The goal is to make the secular and pluralistic country a Hindu nation. By Till Fähnders

Singer Sanjay Faizabadi's music videos are anything but subtle. Images of explosions, marching soldiers and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flicker across the screen in rapid cuts.

One video begins with the focus on the singer himself, clad in a camouflage shirt with a black scarf wrapped around his head, his face and teeth apparently smeared with blood. An old fort looms into view, along with flaming fighter planes, exploding warships and tanks charging across rough terrain. Then Modi's face appears, alongside other international leaders such as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. "We have the power to deflect cyclones and crush mountains! Listen carefully, enemy of the nation, every Indian is an atomic bomb!" sings Faizabadi.

Mixing national pride, militarism and agitation against neighbouring Pakistan, the Indian singer's videos are popular in India. The one described above has racked up nearly ten million views on YouTube, while another of Faizabadi's videos has been watched 15 million times.

The singer is just one of a number of musicians who have been enjoying increasing success in India with their ultra-nationalist songs. They sing the praises of the immortal Indian nation, praise Hindu deities and rail against Muslims and Pakistan. The music style is sometimes called "saffron pop" after the colour that is sacred to Hindus and has been adopted as the trademark of the Hindu nationalists who have been the majority in government since 2014.

More attacks on Muslims

The star of the scene is thirty-something Laxmi Dubey, whose videos attract up to 40 million views. She takes the stage at concerts in splendid gowns and with an entourage of some two dozen musicians. "Jai Shri Ram!" is a frequent refrain: "Victory to the god Rama".

For his part, Sanjay Faizabadi displays more of a penchant for the military, war and arch enemy Pakistan. But his YouTube channel shows that he is also increasingly turning to religious themes. In one of his more recent videos, he appears in front of temple backdrops and wears saffron robes instead of camouflage.

 

Saffron pop is the soundtrack to a set of policies that seeks to transform the secular and pluralistic nation of India more and more into a Hindu state. Under the rule of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), attacks on Muslims have increased, while other minorities such as Christians and Dalits (the former "untouchables") are likewise being marginalised.

The mere suspicion that a Muslim may have mistreated or slaughtered a cow is often enough to provoke a beating. Dozens of Muslims have already been lynched in such incidents. Critics accuse Modi and his party of wanting to turn secular and pluralistic India into a "Hindu Rashtra", a nation of Hindus.

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