Ohh Honey Singh! The punjabi rapper who essentially ruled mainstream Indian Music for a long time has for quite some time been underground, but it seems like his attempts at a comeback have been stopped abruptly. Recently, the artist released a song titled ‘Makhna’ (back in December 2018 featuring Neha Kakkar, Singhsta and TDO), which stirred quite some controversy as he ended up being booked under the Indian Penal Code for essentially releasing a ‘vulgar’ song. Here’s all the details:
CALLING OUT THE VULGARITY
The whole issue arises out of a complaint lodged by the Punjab State Women Commission, which is essentially a commission that comes directly under the Punjab Police. The words in question are essentially, “Main Soon Womaniser” i.e. “I’m a Womaniser”. In context, the song title ‘Makhna’ translates to ‘My Sweetheart’ and in terms of the production behind it, it’s quite different from the usual kind of Hip-Hop mixed with Punjabi styles that Honey Singh is known for. It’s a lot more Eurovision/Summer-esque in terms of the way it’s been made. But after this complaint was made to the Punjab Police, Honey Singh and the producer of the song Bhushan Kumar have actually been booked under the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act. under the following sections:
- Section 294 of the IPC: Punishment for obscene songs and acts
- Section 509 of the IPC: Punishment for word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman
- Section 67 of the IT Act: Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form
Although the accused have not been arrested, they have been booked and would probably have to face pecuniary charges for which they’ll have to pay damages, along with it being added to their Criminal record. Manisha Gulati, the chairperson of the Committee had personally written letters to the State Home Secretary and the Punjab Director General of Police. She has also asked for the song to be banned in the State.
THE QUESTION OF FREE SPEECH
Under the Indian Constitution, the Freedom of Speech is included under Fundamental Rights that are awarded to every single citizen of the country. But at the same time, before people start jumping to conclusions about this decision curtailing ‘Free Speech’, the artist and the producer have been booked on very specific provisions under Indian Law that provide instances where Free Speech does not ply as a fundamental right. In 2013, Honey Singh was also in controversy for a song where the lyrics contained said, “I’m a rapist”. Especially in an environment post the #metoo movement where there is a lot more awareness about Sexual Harassment and misconduct, it seems like the Punjab State Women Commission wanted to finally act on something to show that this ‘vulgarity’ might fuel further toxic thought that only jeopardises the safety of women in the country. There have been reports that Manisha has been receiving threatening calls wanting her to push for the dropping of these charges against Honey Singh. At the same time, people wary of the Indian Penal Code would argue that most provisions under the Indian Penal Code protect women, not men and whilst that argument might carry weight in another circumstance, the booked have also been charged under the Information Technology Act, which makes no differentiation based on gender.
WHAT DOES IT SAY?
So what does this incident really say? Do Honey Singh and his producer really need to charged with 3 sections under the Indian Law? Should the song really be banned, even if it might seem “offensive” or “vulgar”? With the Hip-Hop scene growing around the country going completely against the very thing Honey Singh started, it seems like most people would be happy with this considering the change they want – not just in the mindset, but also in the quality of the music. At the same time, acts like these purported by Commissions who have power can spread to other art forms as well. It then, becomes tough to analyse where the line is drawn. What do you guys think? Do you think the song is as ‘vulgar’ as it is claimed to be? It already has around 220 million views. So it definitely has a big big reach. Remember, Honey Singh made his fame off of incredibly vulgar and abusive songs that were listened to and heard by millions across the country.