Support from the Punjabi music industry, which not only took a firm stand on farm laws but also put its weight behind the unrest, slowly led to change in the face of the protest. – mainly from older farmers to young farmers.
The dharnas against agricultural laws were initially gatherings made up largely of men and women over the age of 50.
Soon after, Punjabi artists offered songs about the farmers and their efforts, leading more and more young people to join the ongoing turmoil on the borders of Delhi and elsewhere.
How it all began
In July 2020, when the unrest was still in its infancy, many agricultural activists on social media questioned the absence of Punjabi artists from the anti-farm bill movement then in formation. The artists have been criticized for “making money singing songs glorifying the Jatts” but for failing to stand up for the farmers.
The Punjabi entertainment industry, however, was quick to respond.
The coupling of farmers’ unions
As the singers prepared to play their roles, the farmers’ unions were reluctant to allow them to take the stage.
Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala asked a union for permission to attend their protest, but was refused on the grounds that his presence could create a distraction. Another group of Punjabi singers, led by Harbhajan Mann, attended a demonstration in Nabha where they were not warmly welcomed.
This forced the artists to create their own scene.
Moosewala held a large rally in Mansa on September 25, 2020, the day the call for the Punjab Bandh was made. Another group of artists staged a massive rally in Batala the last week of September to support the protest. Moosewala also led a protest march in Chandigarh on September 27.
The president of the Punjab Kisan Union, Ruldu Singh, had posted a video criticizing such gatherings, which, by the way, were more lively and noisy than those of traditional farmers’ unions.
The response to the singers forced the farmers’ unions to rethink their approach.
Farmers’ unions argued that the movement was supported because of their efforts and planning. However, Bhartiya Kisan Union Etka Dakunda General Secretary Jagmohan Singh admitted that the singers played a role in bringing young people to protest sites. âThere were many factors behind the involvement of young people in the protests. The singers played a comparative role. They (the singers) come to participate alone. We never invited them, âsaid Jagmohan Singh.
He said, âAt the end of the day, people moderated the narrative. We saw how the crowd wouldn’t allow Maan to speak from the stageâ¦ So there was also pressure from people on the singers to support this commotion.
Singer Harf Cheema agrees: âBoth theories are true. On the one hand the singers motivated the youth and on the other there was also the pressure of society on the singers to support the agitation and play their part. What affects society also affects the singers.
Some of the songs inspired by the anti-farm laws movement include âKisan Anthemâ performed by 10 singers and has 48 million views on YouTube; Kanwar Garewal âPecha Pe Geya Nal Centerâ; Punjab Bolda, Dhrana, Assi Wandange and Zalam Sarkaran.
Most of the songs attacked the Union government with Delhi as a symbol. These songs were played on tractors as they moved from the villages of the Punjab to the Delhi border.
Although Diljit Dosanjh did not produce any specific songs about the agricultural movement, he was very active on Twitter and also supported the unrest with monetary donations.
The frequency of new songs about the agricultural movement declined after the January 26 incident in Delhi.
âMost of the singers were free when the unrest resumed because there was lockdown. They released songs and made money. Now when it all opens up and the singers have resumed their shows, very few songs about agricultural laws are produced, âsaid a leader of a farmers’ union.
Harf Cheema disagrees. âIt’s easy to blame the singers because they’re celebrities. When everyone was focusing on the farm bills, the singers were there as well. If the intensity decreased, that would also reflect on what the singers are doing. But I’m sure the agricultural unrest will intensify in November, as it did last November, âhe said.