Archive for May, 2022


On Sidhu Moose Wala’s death and social media

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

A Facebook post.

Holding Grief

Note: I live in Bangalore, Karnataka but am concerned about Panjab. Yet, I am a bit removed from local film industry and music that Panjab’s youth loves. Here are my reflections looking at two tragic events, one in each state. I waited for Sidhu Moose Wala’s funeral to make this post about the evening he was shot dead.

A few months back, Karnataka lost a youth icon. Puneet Rajkumar’s loss created a void in Kannada film industry and society. There was an overflowing of grief on ground and on social media. Karnataka had lost a promising son, India paid respect.

Two days back, Panjab lost its youth icon Moose Wala. While Panjab grieved, many in Panjab and many more outside Panjab flooded the social media with commentary. The singer’s tragic death became a site for political wrangling. Why was our attitude to Puneet and Karnataka different from Moose Wala and Panjab?

There is no doubt, knowing well that he had expressed threat to his life, the AAP government in Panjab was responsible for reducing Moose Wala’s security. They did it to appeal to AAP’s well wishers – the liberal middle-class in the states where AAP seeks to win in next elections and on social media. Not only that, the Panjab government flashed the names of those 424 people whose security was reduced and withdrawn. This list was supposed to be secret, why was it made public? Now Delhi police says it had alerted Panjab police. The government had no answer but it had a ready social media troll army hell-bent on defending the government. They vitiated that evening on social media.

Then there are those who have seen the truth of AAP’s elaborate hypocrisy, its treatment of minorities, its technocrat-bureaucrat model that refuses to engage with deeper underlying issues of the two states they govern. They went hammer and tongs against AAP and further vitiated the evening. This did not happen when Puneeth passed away though there were accusations of medical negligence. Is it their issue that in its desperation and to break the clutch of Congress and Akali Dal on state politics, Panjab voted AAP? If those who see through AAP want their states to not vote AAP, they can build their states. Why blame Panjab? Most of these states have already gone BJP, Panjab hasn’t. Is there any credit to Panjab for that?

Inside Panjab, there were those who proposed Moose Wala upheld gun culture and guns claimed him. This was poetic justice – those who live by guns, die by guns. But poetic justice is willed and wished. They surely did not will and wish this on Moose Wala. It is like saying fire is hot. Yes, it is. So? I am sorry, this was extremely wrong timing. Even Moose Wala’s body had not yet gone cold. In this approach, I have some idea – given Panjab’s various deep fault lines – but I still do not understand that though there is much need for investigation and correction, why I sense self-loathing or Panjab-loathing in these responses?

I have not heard Moose Wala’s music much. I am not young. I find rap too fast. I do not understand the lyrics. Yet we know, every art is a response to the creator’s times and conditions – some literal and some tap into undercurrents. Moose Wala started from a village on sand dunes, was unapologetic about his roots, responded to angst and tapped into the undercurrent – gave words to what a large number of youth in Panjab and in the large Diaspora feel deep in their hearts.

To me this undercurrent is Panjab’s resistance and Moose Wala’s music was one expression of this resistance. You may like his music or not, but it stood in defiance, as a response to the social, economic and political discontent that brews in Panjab. Since such music breaks pre-defined boundaries and traditions, by necessity, it has to be irreverent and that irks many.

Moose Wala saw the world and came back to his village, made it his base, and slowly his music changed. Of course, the impact, the resonance was huge, but his career was merely 5 years long, from 2017-22. He was still maturing. Off late, Moose Wala was shedding his early Jutt-supremacy casteist, feudal and misogynistic tropes and moving towards larger themes. Listen to ’295′ – an acute political song of our times.

Most ground-breaking art comes from edgy places in the artist’s life. Guns are extensions of this edginess, arms are a part of Panjab’s culture. We all know those are vicious circles, yet some artists feel driven to take that route. Minus them from an artist and the art diminishes. Death wish is a theme of most such music, like for Jim Morrison, for Kurt Cobain. Listen to ‘The Last Ride’ – Moose Wala’s last song where he pays homage to his Guru Tupac Shakur who too was gunned down. The song is almost prophetic in that it sadly proved true.

In the tragic death of Moose Wala and the response that evening, what astounded me is the hate I saw playing out on social media: from AAP towards its detractors; by anti-AAP folks in their propensity to slander; the self-righteous stuck to moral high seats; and Hindutva bhakts who for no rhyme or reason – Moose Wala never attacked any religion – went slandering him the very evening he was shot dead.

Hate is as old as civilization. In recent years, one political party weaponised hate against another political party, has won two terms at the Centre, has activated hate against minorities, tribals, women, run down the economy, sold off assets and continues to hate monger over religious symbols. What are we who are giving in to hate against each other trying to do differently from that party? Do we really believe by giving in to hate we can create a different world?

Coming to Panjab, to Sikhs for Moose Wala kept a turban. Unlike Karnataka, what do people have against Panjab, its people? Is there any understanding that the music that Moose Wala created, the one Panjab’s youth vibed with, came from the angst that comes from Panjab’s fault lines and also the decadal negligence of Panjab by the same people who were blaming Panjab, its political choices, and its youth? What are they doing to heal Panjab? Do they have any empathy?

Moose Wala’s killing now deepens the abyss in which Panjab finds itself – with a political change that has cost the state so much already, no direction out of the morass, no improvement in systems, no avenues for livelihood … now with Moose Wala’s killing that discontent is heavier by another huge stone.

Deep sadness on a journey cut short even before it could ripen. A son is gone, some media says thousands, some says lakhs attended the funeral. Please allow Panjab and all Moose Wala fans to hold their grief.

May Sidhu Moose Wala’s music live.



Panjab Govt Amicably Settles Agitating Farmers Demands

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Yesterday, farmers in Panjab had marched down to the state capital Chandigarh to present their demands to the Panjab CM Bhagwant Mann. They were not only stopped in satellite town Mohali, their leaders were lured into taking a bus to meet the CM. However, the CM ran away to Delhi.

Later in the night, as farmers camped on roads, like in Delhi last year, the CM came back to Chandigarh and said: ‘Protests are not the way. Give me one year, I will sort out all issues.’ The farmers had earlier discussed their issues with the government. The government had even made big announcements, but had not put them in writing, issued notifications, so those announcements were not legal tender. Seeing a repeat of government play hide-and-seek, the farmers were determined to make the government accountable.

The farmers’ demands were:

1. A Rs 500 bonus on each quintal of wheat as their yield has dropped and shrivelled because of unprecedented heatwave conditions.
2. Take back installation of 85,000 smart electricity meters.
3. Notification on MSP for Green Gram and Corn.
4. Basmati MSP at Rs 4500 and notification.
5. Panjab nomination to Bhakra Beas Management Board.
6. Electricity should be supplied to Panjab on earlier terms.
7. Paddy sowing from June 10 and not June 18 as ordered by government.
8. Lower charges on the extension of electricity load from Rs 4,800 to Rs 1,200; 10-12 hours of power supply.
9. Release of outstanding sugarcane payment.
10. No more land auctions of loan defaulters.
11. Take back 22,000 cases on loan defaulters.
12. As promised in manifesto during elections, waive off farmer loans up to Rs 2 lakh.
13. Do not snatch away settler lands in the name of recovering Panchayat lands.

Thankfully, today, the meeting between CM and farmer leaders took place. The government has agreed to majority of demands:

- Paddy sowing moved to June 14, Panjab to be divided in two and not four zones. Farmer leaders to propose areas.
- Green Gram MSP notified.
- Promise to give MSP on Corn and issue notification.
- No auctioning of loan defaulter land.
- Smart meters won’t be implemented.
- Release of outstanding sugarcane payment.
- Lower charges on extension of electricity load.
- Intention to not waive farm loans but make farmers loan free.
- To re-look Panchayati land recovery, divide them into two kinds of lands. Not uproot settlers.

CM Mann to meet Union Home Minister tomorrow on: wheat compensation, Basmati MSP, Panjab nomination on BBMB, and others.

On that side lines of this protest, an act played out:

In the last few days, Panjab has been plagued by fires to dry stalks of wheat left after harvesting. In one incident a school bus carrying children caught fire, 10 children were injured, 3 seriously. In another a 1.5 year old girl succumbed to flames as her shanty caught fire as the slum burnt down. While people understand the problem of paddy straw and wheat stalk burning has persisted for years and the system has not provided succour, popular opinion in the state turned against farmers. Especially, farmer unions that do not forbid farmers from starting fires. There is no doubt that straw and stalk burning must end. It destroys land, flora, fauna, insects, now humans too, pollutes land, water and air. But we can dwell upon it in another thread.

For now, as farmers reached Chandigarh, many outraged on social media about farmers being irresponsible, even being beggars seeking sops. Plus the AAP supporters turned against farmers abusing them in the worst language, saying they would get nothing, give government time. Now they are licking their burns.

Sadly, what blind supporters of AAP do not realise is their leaders, perhaps Kejriwal yesterday, would have instructed Mann to not let the farmers protest grow. To end it at any cost. The protest would have been very bad optics for the nascent AAP government in Panjab. The farmers capacity to non-violently agitate is now legendary.

The real point is: given the global food crises, the world is waking up to the merits of an agrarian state, importance of farmers. It is big win today that the AAP government has stood by the farmers. I hope the government continues to stand by the people and Panjab solves all its major systemic agrarian issues – river and canal waters, soil use, crop diversification, reduction of chemicals, and fair price for produce.

Who knows, perhaps Panjab will then start feeling the world as it once fed the country.


Sepia Leaves: a Podcast

   Posted by: aman    in Sepia Leaves

Dear Friends,

It has been 15 years since ‘Sepia Leaves’ was published. The book remains in circulation. Each year, many request copies. I keep sending them far and wide.

A few days back, a new mental health platform MyndStories conducted an interview with me on the book. If I can say this myself: it came out very well.

The podcast is in English – 55 minutes, 55 seconds. I think worth your time. Do listen. We talk about the book, care giving and self care. Thank you Ankit Narasimhan and Smitha Murthy.