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In India, ‘patriotism pop’ songs urge Hindus to claim Kashmir, fueling a political divide

The music is flooding social media with themes boosting nationalism and the country’s burgeoning right-wing ideology. ‘We write songs about things people want,’ says a singer whose hit has gotten 1.9 million views on YouTube.

This image from a YouTube music video titled “Dhara 370” — “Article 370,” referring to a part of India’s constitution relating to Kashmir — is among a flurry of “patriotic pop” music videos posted after India’s Hindu-led nationalist government revoked the
This image from a YouTube music video titled “Dhara 370” — “Article 370,” referring to a part of India’s constitution relating to Kashmir — is among a flurry of “patriotic pop” music videos posted after India’s Hindu-led nationalist government revoked the statehood of Jammu, a Muslim majority region.
YouTube

The music videos began appearing on social media within hours of the announcement by India’s Hindu-led nationalist government it was stripping statehood from the disputed region of Kashmir, which 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 “patriotism pop” — songs flooding social media in India boosting nationalism and the country’s burgeoning right-wing ideology.

Earlier songs touted the rise of Hindus in India and defeating regional rival Pakistan. Now, they include settling in Kashmir — a region claimed by both Pakistan and India, though each controls only part of it.

In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status, guaranteed under India’s constitution, and sent in troops. The move has touched off anger in the Indian-controlled region, with a security lockdown that’s seen thousands detained to prevent protests.

One of Modi’s revisions allows anyone to buy land in the territory, which some Kashmiris fear could mean an influx of Hindus.

The patriotic songs are mostly shared on Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. Despite low production values, poorly matched lip-synching and repetitive techno beat, many of these soundtracks have gotten millions of views on YouTube, especially among younger people in northern and eastern parts of India.

Nitesh Singh Nirmal, a Modi admirer in the eastern state of Bihar, says he’s the first to produce a soundtrack on the revocation of Kashmir’s statehood. The song “Dhara 370” — “Article 370” — starts with images of an Indian flag fluttering atop New Delhi’s famous Red Fort, followed by footage of Modi from an Independence Day ceremony. Nirmal thanks Modi for keeping his promise to remove Article 370 from the constitution.

The song has gotten more than 1.6 million hits on YouTube since it was posted there by Nirmal, who has no musical background and says he found his calling when Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won the 2014 election.

“I am doing service for the nation,” Nirmal says.

TikTok, which lets users lip-synch to music and make short vines, is flooded with images of Hindu nationalists declaring plans to go to Kashmir and marry women there.

In April, TikTok was removed from Android and iPhone app stores after an Indian court ruled it was “encouraging pornography.”

Salman Siddiqui, who studies science in the state of Uttar Pradesh, wanted to showcase his musical writing and contacted Nirmal. They collaborated on a song about a man seeking a Kashmiri bride.

“It’s the desire of a young man’s heart to marry a Kashmiri woman,” Siddiqui says.

The idea was boosted by lawmaker Vikram Saini, who told members of his Bharatiya Janata Party “eager to get married” to go to Kashmir.

Critics say the idea of marrying Kashmiri women to “reclaim” the region is rooted in a patriarchy that dehumanizes Kashmiris. Political anthropologist Ather Zia says such songs are a “culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from humiliating Kashmiri women . . . . while demonizing Kashmiri men.”

“We write songs about things people want,” says singer Nardev Bainiwal, who has a song about Kashmir that’s gotten 1.9 million hits on YouTube.

“I am personally against such declarations,” Bainiwal says. “But, if we don’t make these songs, someone else will, and we will lose out on money.”

A screenshot of a patriotic music video on YouTube that appeared after India’s Hindu-led nationalist government revoked the statehood of Kashmir on Aug. 5. The song is about a man who seeks a bride from Kashmir and wants to be the first to have his weddin
A screenshot of a patriotic music video on YouTube that appeared after India’s Hindu-led nationalist government revoked the statehood of Kashmir on Aug. 5. The song is about a man who seeks a bride from Kashmir and wants to be the first to have his wedding procession travel from India to the disputed region.
YouTube