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 Not only that, the Panjab government flashed the names of those 424 people whose security was reduced and withdrawn.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.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2022 at 9:11 pm and is filed under Punjab. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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