Bhagwa dhaari sab pe bhaari, chalen hain apne seena taan.
Jo na bole jai shree Ram, bhej do usko qabristan.
Jitne bhi hain ab Ram virodhi, unko ab dafnayenge.
Poore Hindustan ke andar, Ram rajya phir layenge.
(Saffron-clad men are mightier than all. Like victors, they march around with swollen chests.
Those who will not chant victory to lord Ram, send them to the graveyard.
All those who are against Ram, shall now be buried in the ground.
In all of Hindustan, we will bring back the rule of Ram.)
These are the opening lyrics to a new song uploaded on YouTube on 23 July, on a channel called “Varun Bahar official.” The three-minute-long song, titled, “Those who will not chant victory to lord Ram, send them to the graveyard,” is by a Bhojpuri singer, Varun Bahar Upadhyay. The video features Bahar dressed in an all-saffron outfit, sporting rudraksh beads—seeds that are used as prayer beads, usually by followers of the Hindu god Shiva—against a fixed backdrop splashed with images of the Hindu god Ram. The video switches between Bahar singing, images of young men carrying swords and threatening bystanders, and groups of saffron-clad boys and girls dancing. An unidentified graveyard—the cemetery is dotted with Christian crosses—makes an appearance every time Bahar sings the chorus, accompanied by some fist-pumping for added effect. The hashtags accompanying the song are equally unimaginative: “#saffron#terrorist#varun.” The description has a single line in Hindi which translates as “after singing this song, the media has declared Varun Bahar as a saffron terrorist.” A casual search on Google did not reveal any such media reports.
The song has, however, been shared widely on social media, drawing sharp reactions, and scathing criticism for inciting lynching and mob violence against minorities. The unequivocal exhortations in the song’s lyrics are undeniable. Bahar’s YouTube channel, which had 549 subscribers as of 6 pm on 24 July, has been online since 2013, but the oldest video is from just a year ago. The channel is an absurd mix of devotional songs, Bhojpuri love songs, videos proclaiming and seeking support for the prime minister Narendra Modi and content that can only politely be termed titillating.
Bahar’s mobile phone has been switched off since the morning of 24 July, following the furore on social media, and I could not get in touch with Santosh Singh Yadu, the writer of the song and a co-curator of the channel. Rajesh Verma, who runs a YouTube channel called Janta Musical And Pictures, produced and directed the video. Verma told me that the video was originally uploaded on his channel “two or three days ago, but we removed it from Janta music because it became controversial.” He said that some “Pakistani channels and local channels” contacted him and told him that “it’s wrong to say ‘send them to the grave,’ and so we took it down.”
Verma denied that the lyrics were inflammatory and said that “the singer did not take names” of any religion. He argued that “both Hindus and Muslims use graves.” When I pointed out that Hindus are cremated and so the song targets minority communities who bury their dead, Verma claimed that “only married Hindus are cremated, unmarried and single Hindus are buried.” He appeared to have forgotten that the Bharatiya Janata Party patriarch, Atal Bihari Vajpayee—an avowed bachelor—was cremated with full state honours. “I am not anti-Muslim,” Verma told me, when I pushed him to explain the anti-minority lyrics of the video. “I visit dargahs every Thursday and do pranam whenever I go past a mosque.”