(RNS) — Upendra Rana, a singer-songwriter based in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, started by performing at low-key events in and around his village of Rasulpur before launching his YouTube channel in 2019. Since then the unassuming, middle-aged Rana, whom one Indian publication described as dressed like a bank clerk, has amassed close to 400,000 followers, with some of his songs attracting millions of views.
His secret? Rana is a star in an incendiary genre referred to as “Hindutva pop” that paints Muslim Indians as villains who should move to Pakistan, India’s Muslim-majority neighbor.
In a video made last year, Rana is seen praising Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, a powerful Hindu priest who openly calls for genocide of Muslims and creating an Islam-free India — in a song about the “resurgence” of a Hindu nation.
Rana is unapologetic about anti-Muslim hatred in his songs. “They (Muslims) can’t stand the truth,” he told Religion News Service. “They can say anything about our gods and expect us to be mum. Even then, we are not as violent as them.”
At the same time, he dismisses the idea that his songs are offensive. “I talk about the glorious Hindu kings of the past. Most of their opponents were Muslims. So, whenever I talk about them their opponents would be mentioned. So what’s the harm in that?” he asked.
But many observers say the increasingly popular genre, which emerged after the Bharatiya Janata Party won national elections in 2014, is triggering violence against Muslims, a minority already marginalized by Hindu nationalists with support from the BJP government.
Abhay Kumar, a journalist and activist in New Delhi, believes that Hindutva pop is sponsored by the nationalist government itself. “These songs have led to increased polarization of masses and helped in creating an atmosphere of fear for minorities. Such an atmosphere is beneficial for a few political parties in the country for their electoral gains,” he said.
Sending Muslims to Pakistan is a prominent theme. “Muslalmano ke do sthan, ya Pakistan, ya Qabristan,” goes one popular song — “Muslims deserve only two places, either Pakistan or the graveyard.”
But the threat of Hindutva pop goes beyond taunts and suggestions Muslims don’t belong in India. “These songs have become a precursor to violence against us,” said Amjad Khan, a resident of Khargone, in central India, who watched as a mob whipped up by Hindutva music attacked a Muslim neighborhood there during Muslim-Hindu clashes in April.
Across the “cow belt” — the north and central regions of the country known for their strong tilt toward Hindu conservatism — Hindutva pop has become the soundtrack for anti-Muslim attacks, observers say.
“In many parts where riots took place,” said Aasif Mujtaba, an activist with the Miles2Smile Foundation, which helps rehabilitate those affected by mass violence, “one thing that we found common was that these extremely provocative songs were being played on loudspeakers to mobilize people.”
This story was originally published in religionnews.com . Read the full story here