She had never heard of Yo Yo Honey Singh until a day before New Year’s eve. By then, Delhi’s anti-rape protests had led to the lewd and sexist lyrics of the Bollywood rapper’s songs being circulated on the internet as a symbol of misogyny in India.
“There was this chain mail doing the rounds and an email landed in my inbox too. I logged on to the net to check who Honey Singh was in the first place,” says Kalpana Misra, a 53-year-old Delhi-based yoga teacher and writer. She found herself chagrined by the lyrics of songs like Main balatkari hoon (I am a rapist), which Honey Singh now claims he never sang.
“I just logged on to the web and launched a petition asking for his New Year’s eve concert in Gurgaon to be cancelled,” says Misra. The petition went viral on social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter and over 2,500 people signed it within 24 hours. The concert at Bristol Hotel was cancelled at the very last minute.
Misra lives a regular life in her cosy Chittaranjan Park home and has never participated in a protest before. “I have been an armchair activist of sorts, signing petitions online, but that’s about it,” she says. But this time she did join her friends and colleagues in holding placards to protest against the gangrape. “I went out on the streets to vent my personal anger against the vulnerability of women. Somebody proudly proclaiming ‘Main balatkari hoon’ and talking about raping a 16-year-old in his songs had to be stopped,” she says.
She agrees that Honey Singh’s music is ‘catchy enough’ to often allow you to ignore the lyrics, but says, “We have to draw that boundary. Rape is about violence which has to be condemned and there is nothing sexual about it.”
The cancellation of the concert raised the issue of Honey Singh’s right to expression, but Misra is not convinced. She says people can also express their right to choose not to listen to his music. Honey Singh, says Misra, is just a symbol. “There are several other artistes and musicians in mainstream cinema who should be written about. But I am no expert on the matter, I just wanted to make a point, that’s all.”