Gujarat: inter-community relations

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Songs extolling communities

As in 2019

Saeed Khan, July 21, 2019: The Times of India

If Gujarat's Patidars are tigers, Thakors roaring lions in community songs

AHMEDABAD: The 2015 Patidar quota agitation may have fizzled out but Gujarat’s communities are on a melodious high, asserting themselves and bragging about cultural supremacy of their respective castes through songs like never before. The trend, which was triggered by the uprising of Patidars during the reservation stir, has the social media platforms flooded with caste-specific music videos, partly also a reflection of political assertion by the communities in Gujarat.

Music albums and songs specific to Patidars, Thakors, Kolis, Rabaris and other communities are being exuberantly uploaded, unleashing a competitive one-upmanship over the other across social media platforms, particularly YouTube. So while Patidars, which constitute 12% Gujarat’s population, are swooning to “Patel na dikra ni 36 ni chhe chhati” (Patels’ sons have 36 inch chest) and “Patel tiger kahevay” (Patels are tigers), the headstrong Thakor community, which is a sizeable 15%, would like to proclaim themselves as lions.

In fact, youths of Thakor community, the most sizeable of the 147 castes included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) constituting 40% of state population, are roaring to the community song “Thakor mara sinh kahevay” (Thakors are the lions).

Most music videos appear similar with names of communities replaced

Kolis, another sizeable OBC community, that has strong presence in Saurashtra and south Gujarat are riding high on their song, “Bike bullet lai, paheri chashma, halya koli bhai rally ma” (Donning glares, riding a bike, Koli bhais are headed for a rally). Pastoralists Rabaris who may be small in numbers, constituting less than 1% of state population, too have a number of customized community albums singing, “Rab sathe eni yaari, enu nom chhe rabari” (Rabaris are friends with God); “Maro eklo rabari pade, laakh upar bhari…” (One Rabari equals to 100).

Most music videos appear similar with communities even replacing community name in the lyrics to suit themselves. So while Patel song has ‘Patidar betha hoy to power na karay’ (Don’t show off your power in presence of the Patidars); Patidar is replaced with `Kshatriyas’ to cherish the Kshatriya community pride.

One of the most popular number which has multi-community versions is ‘Dalit chhiye ame koi thi nahi darvana’. (We are Dalits, not scared of anybody). Here, the word Dalit gets replaced by Koli, Thakor in other variants. In most video albums made for Patidar songs, protagonists move around in a particular SUV that is preferred by the Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel. On the other hand, a song on Thakor community names five automobile companies and their car models to express how the community members afford costly vehicles now. Community leaders like Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor too feature in some videos.

Huge convoy of cars, bikes, horses are common features in most albums along with their protagonists toting guns, wielding swords and tweaking their moustaches. For Maldhari community, the most popular song by Geeta Rabari ‘Rona Sher ma re’, which has 25 crore views, cherishes how members of the community have prospered in cities. Protecting the poor from land sharks and returning their land documents is a recurring theme in Rabari and Thakor community albums.

Other communities also did not lag far behind. One album extols the greatness of the Brahmins: ‘Parshuram na vanshaj ame bhudev kahevata’. There is no song made in Gujarati for Muslims. But the community has imported one from Hyderabad, and there is not a single marriage procession with a DJ where the song is not played. The rap song is titled ‘Miyabhai’ by one Rubab Arshad of Hyderabad. It, however, mocks the community: ‘Khandan ke paise ko dhuein me udaay’. (Blowing family fortune) . Some albums are made by professional singers and production houses. “For singers, a community song guarantees certain number of views and likes. This ensures their income on social media,” said Kartikey Bhatt, a film historian.

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