Punjabi singers usually appear in headlines for their songs and controversies. Recently, Sidhu Moosewala hit the headlines for violating the lockdown and shooting at a police-owned firing range. Now, Ranjit Bawa, too, is in the news for his anti-caste song that has hurt the sentiments of some from the Hindu community. Due to this song, multiple cases have been filed. First, a BJYM morcha leader lodged a complaint against Bawa for hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.
Then, a doctor filed a complaint against a BJYM leader for hurting the sentiments of his medical fraternity. Hindu organisations have even announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for blackening Bawa’s face. While a section of Punjab-based Hindu organisations are furious at Bawa, many from the Dalit community have come out in support of the song.
On 2nd May 2020, Ranjit Bawa released his ‘Mera ki Kasoor’ song on Youtube. His song went viral on social media due to its anti-caste and pro-poor lyrics. Bawa spared none and attacked casteism in Sikhism, Hinduism and Christianity. In the intro of the song, Bawa questions the shortage of food for hungry and offering of milk to stones. It is a direct question on the Hindu ritual of pouring milk on Shivling. Some videos have gone viral on social media showing Sikhs washing Gurdwaras with milk, but it’s not a Sikh religious ritual. Bawa also talked about a poor person’s touch, which is considered bad, while cow urine is considered pure.
His song’s lyrics are as follows:
What is your sort of wisdom?
There is shortage of food for the hungry,
but there is milk for stones.
If I speak too much truth,
It will start a war.
Poor man’s touch is bad
but cow urine is pure.
We accept that you are strong,
And you have big ego,
what is my fault if I am born in poor/low household
People wear Swords (GurSikhs wear this), Janeau (UCH wear this) and Crosses (Christian wear this) in their necks
You have not adopted the principles,
but you have adopted religious clothes.
Power-hungry people have completely ignored principles
You have established Gurudwaras according to Gotras.
First of all, reject the teachings of Dhana Bhagat and Ravidas Ji,
Only then we will accept that lower caste people have low-thinking.
What is my fault if I am born in a poor/ lower household.
Hide the flowing air in closed rooms,
decorate your roofs with sun, moon, and stars,
close water of ocean and rivers in vessels.
Grow your crops in your courtyard so our shadows don’t impure it.
Apply these restrictions, we will die by ourselves.
You will become impure,
Why do you want to kill us with your hands?
What is my fault if I am born in low/poor households.
Moneylenders we accept that you don’t face a shortage of any kind.
Do we not need food, water, shelter, and clothes?
Our homes are small, but hearts are bigger.
We talk straightforward without any manipulation.
Your murders are forgivable,
but even our lies are not spared.
You are making rich richer,
while poor are being pushed more into poverty,
Your city’s rituals are great.
What is my fault If I am born in poor/ low household family.
Most Punjabi singers usually glorify Jattism in their songs. Howevwe, this song becomes more significant because Bawa, who himself is Jatt Sikh, attacked casteism in Sikhism too. He talked about caste-based Gurudwaras, and went on to say that people wear swords, janeau and cross around their necks, but do not adopted their religious principles.
It’s a rare moment in the history of Punjabi music that a well-established singer has sung a song against casteism. And even Jatts are listening to this song. Bawa’s attack on casteism, purity of cow urine, and Janeau was noticed by Punjab-based Hindu organisations, and even national leaders have demanded action against Bawa.
Shiv Sena Punjab’s National Chairman Rajiv Tandon has demanded strict action against Ranjit Bawa. In an Interview with Punjabi Channel, Amit Arora, Deputy Chairman of Shiv Sena Punjab, has declared a reward of Rs 1 lakh for blackening Bawa’s face. Jalandhar-based advocate and BJYM Morcha Punjab’s Media in-charge Ashok Sareen has lodged a complaint against Bawa. Talking to me over the phone, he said,
“Firstly, Ranjit Bawa compared poverty to religion. Hindus and Sikhs use milk in their temples and Gurudwaras. Secondly, Bawa has said that his song will spark a fire. Thirdly, he compared it to cow urine. I want an FIR registered against him.” He added, “It’s not a matter of urine, but of aastha (faith). Who gave him the right to talk about casteism and religion? It’s not an artist’s job.” Sareen has even sent a complaint to Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javedkar. In a letter to Javedkar, he wrote,
“Ranjit Bawa released a song together with Bir Singh, Gurmoh, Dhiman Productions and Bull 18 Networks under the title ‘Mera Ki Kasoor’, in which he cleverly and blatantly hurt the feelings of Hindu community… he attacked the Hindu belief by derogating the belief of cow-urine and Hindu Culture in the disguise of describing a poor person… Bawa, associated with other accused, also tried to create a rift between two religious beliefs by lowering one belief and lifting the other belief. This action of his is also anti-national (as Hindus are majority in this nation) and anti-religion. Ban all his social media accounts and ask Youtube and other social media companies to remove song from the internet… His team and production houses must be banned from Pollywood, Bollywood, and social media.”
His accusations do not hold water as, apart from Hinduism, Bawa has also talked about Sikhism and Christianity in his song.
This matter took an interesting twist when a doctor filed a complaint against Ashok Sareen for hurting the sentiments of doctors. Complainant Dr Hargurpartap Singh, owner of Deep hospital Nihal Singh Wala (Moga), said: “To demoralise Punjabis, Ashok tried to spread rumours about doctors by saying that doctors have failed in their war against coronavirus. If he has some problem with the singer, he should sort out his matter with the concerned person, why is he targeting doctors? He hurt the sentiments of doctors and scientists who are fighting against the virus.”
In his complaint (whose copy he shared with the author), Dr Hurgurpartap wrote, “Ashok Sareen had said people only have support from God. And doctors have become redundant. During this pandemic, we doctors are serving corona patients 24×7 hours. Some even lost their lives while performing their duties. With his words, this person damaged my reputation.”
(Hurgurpartap is close to Communist and Dalit-leaning organisations. Leaders of Naujwan Bharat Sabha accompanied him to the police station. A copy of the complaint and Hurgurpartap’s video is attached.)
BJYM National Chairman Abhijit Mishra and BJP’s national media Panelist Rohit Chahal tweeted about the song, demanding action against Bawa. Yielding to pressure and threats from Hindu organisations, Bawa removed the song from his Youtube channel and apologised. But the song has already been downloaded by many and is available on many Youtube channels.
Punjabis, especially people from the Dalit community, have come out in support of Ranjit Bawa. They form 32% of Punjab’s population. Mukesh Malaud, President of Zammen Prapati Sangarsh Samiti, who is fighting for the land rights for the Dalit community, told the author:
“Ranjit Bawa sung a song according to the need of the hour. He exposed the ideology of Brahminism, an ideology that works in Hinduism and Sikhism alike. In Punjab’s villages, we have caste-based gurudwaras. Punjab’s youth listen to songs by Punjabi singers who promote Jattism and gang culture. During this trend, Bawa attacked casteism and religious intolerance. It will give a new direction to our youth. Also, it will encourage other singers to sing such songs. Our State’s youth, which used to love songs about gang-wars, have given this song so much love. It will definitely have a positive impact on people’s thinking.
Dr Gurinder Ranghreta, who is one of the biggest critics of Jattism and casteism in Sikhism, wrote on his Facebook page: “Ranjit Bawa talked about poor and downtrodden in his song. We won’t let urine drinkers promote urine and cow dung. We support Ranjit Bawa’s new song.”
‘Bahujana di awaz (Voice of Dalits)’, a Facebook page run by Dalit community, wrote: “Even though Ranjit Bawa has apologised, but he will rule our hearts forever.” ‘I support Ranjit Bawa’ is being posted by people on their Facebook timeline.
The ripple effect of Ranjit Bawa’s song was seen even outside Punjab. Many non-Punjabi Dalits have launched a #IsupportRanjitBawaCampaign on Twitter.
@AbbakkaHypatia tweeted,“Ranjit Bawa has exposed the Brahminical patriarchy of this country that operates even during a pandemic and countrywide lockdown to shut down the voices that protest their oppression.”
When I asked them for the reason of their support for Punjabi song with a tweet, Anjii replied, “Discrimination is not limited to any State or religion. A downtrodden person feels the pain of other downtrodden. No matter who and where voice is raised against oppression, we need to support such people. An oppressed is a friend of other oppressed.”
@Lone_wolf wrote, “I am non-Punjabi but a Dalit. Ranjit sang a beautiful song. He criticised casteism and classism. The moment he criticised casteism and classism, his art belonged to every oppressed because it touches their reality, pain, disparage and discrimination. Art is not limited to region or religion.”
Punith Kumar wrote, “Across India, a Dalit is a Dalit. The oppressors are different but the oppressed are same, they are treated the same way pan India.”
Bawa has deleted his song, but it has brought to light that upper-caste Hindus can’t tolerate criticism of casteism and cow urine.