Letís call it hate speech

Honey Singh

The debate over whether to ban Honey Singh's music has been wrongly characterised in terms of obscenity and censorship. The real issue is of recognising hate speech, and addressing a legal framework that does not view women as full citizens.

Both Anurag Kashyap ('All atwitter', IE, January 4) and Pratik Kanjilal ('Just bad taste', IE, January 5) have defended Singh's work, but neither can bring themselves to quote his lyrics: In "C***t", the protagonist sings of assaulting a woman after intercourse and subjecting her to genital mutilation (is that what Kanjilal calls "a little provocative"?). Honey Singh has, of course, denied any connection with this song, but interestingly, both Kashyap and Kanjilal proceed on the assumption that it is his work.

Similar misogynistic trends run through much of Singh's music. My objection here is not to songs which may be classified as merely obscene (what Kanjilal might describe as having "bad language or lousy ideas"), or even those which draw on troublesome tropes of women as gold-diggers or prostitutes. Unfortunately, Singh's music goes beyond this. "Yaar Bathere" (Many lovers) describes a woman who has multiple partners after having taken expensive gifts from the protagonist. In the accompanying video, Singh and singer Alfaaz stand among 10 men outside an apartment building. An overturned car is burning. Singh jumps onto the car and proceeds to smash its windows with a baseball bat. A group of women on a balcony look down at this scene, our vision of them obscured by thick smoke.

If the women in this video were replaced by members of a religious community, there would be no question that this music incites violence against that community. In fact, such incidents happen to women in real life. Acid attack survivors frequently describe scenarios where men, believing themselves to be scorned, take recourse to violence and mutilation. Kashyap himself, in an interview about Gangs of Wasseypur, acknowledges Bollywood's influence in small towns: "The real fan base of Bollywood is in Wasseypur. I have not seen this kind of confluence of Bollywood and crime elsewhere. The dialogues they have memorised from films become their constant punch lines." Why is Kashyap so reluctant to make similar connections about women and violence when it comes to Honey Singh?

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