A song called "UP Mai Ka Ba" has landed Bhojpuri folk singer Neha Singh Rathore in trouble. She was served a notice by the Uttar Pradesh Police on Tuesday over her song. The song, which didn't take much time to go viral on social media platforms, is about the death of the mother-daughter duo during a demolition drive in Kanpur Dehat in Uttar Pradesh.
In the notice, the police alleged that the singer was creating a "situation of disharmony and tension" in society. She was given three days' time to answer seven questions pertaining to her role in making the song.
Rathore, who defines herself as an artist who works for the revival of the Bhojpuri music industry, has sung several satirical songs in the past. She often takes up issues such as unemployment, poverty, corruption and the use of force by the police.
In an interview with BOOM, Neha Rathore said that she believes it is her responsibility to make songs on issues important to society. "Over the last few years, I have been writing and singing songs on issues in our society. When the Kanpur Dehat incident took place, I felt the need to speak on it as well," she said.
Rathore is known to take digs at the ruling parties in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar as well as the Centre through her music.
"Baba ke darbaar ba dahat gharbaar ba, maayi beti ke aag mai jhokat UP sarkar baa" — These are the opening lines of Rathore's new Bhojpuri song.
With reference to the Kanpur Dehat incident, she takes a dig at the BJP government led by Yogi Adityanath."In Baba's rule, houses are being razed down. The UP government let the mother and daughter burn in the fire," is the rough translation of the song.
"Baba ki DM to badi rangbaaz ba, Kanpur Dehat mai laayi Ramraaj ba (Baba's DM is an influential person and got Ram Raj in Kanpur Dehat)" her song goes, that was uploaded on February 16.
On February 21, Rathore tweeted that the police had served her a notice over the song 'UP Mai Ka Ba'. She also shared a video, showing cops who were at her residence to deliver the notice. "Police notice on 'UP Mai Ka Ba'," she said in the tweet.
'An Act Of Intimidation'
"I come from Bihar and I have witnessed issues like unemployment, beating up of students, and police brutality firsthand. All of this inspired me to give my voice to these issues," she told BOOM.
On the police notice, Rathore said that it was an attack on her fundamental rights. "This is an act of intimidation for a folk singer like me. It compromises my freedom of expression," she said.
Rathore has 8.88 lakh subscribers on her YouTube channel and her song 'UP Mai Ka Ba', which was uploaded on February 16, has been viewed 4,67,534 times over the last one week. On Twitter, the song had 5,551,000 views at the time of writing this story.
The fame comes at a cost. "Almost every time I release a new song, the trolls start bullying me on social media with derogatory remarks," she said. Here are some of the derogatory comments on her song:
In 2022, after she released a song in her series of 'UP Mai Ka Ba', she was attacked by a bunch of boys, the singer told BOOM. "I had gone to a temple soon after that song was released. A bunch of young boys saw me and started chatting with each other pointing toward me. And then they started throwing stones at me," she said.
She did not approach the police then. "They were these young teenage boys. What could I tell them?" Rathore said.
Rathore's series of songs 'UP Mai Ka Ba' talks about several issues — Hathras rape and murder, Covid-19 deaths, and the death of four farmers after they were run over by union minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra.
What happened in Kanpur Dehat?
On February 13, a 44-year-old woman and her daughter reportedly died in a fire incident during a demolition drive in UP's Kanpur Dehat. Reports quoted the police as saying that Pramila Dixit and her daughter Neha Dixit, 20, set themselves ablaze when the police had gone to remove thatched huts built on government land. The family's original house was razed down in January on the complaint of a person named Gedan Lal, The Times Of India reported.
The family had been living in the hut as a temporary shelter. They also alleged that police set the hut afire while they were still inside. "They started the fire while people were still inside. We were just about able to escape. They broke our temple. Nobody did anything, not even the DM (District Magistrate). Everybody ran, nobody could save my mother,” NDTV quoted Shivam Dixit, Pramila's son, as saying.
What does the police notice to the singer say?
According to the notice served to Neha Rathore, she has been given three days' time to answer if she was present in the video and if she herself uploaded it on YouTube and Twitter. "Are the words of the songs used in the videos written by you yourself or not?," the notice, written in Hindi, asks, further questioning her if she is "aware" of the impact that the song will have on society.
"Due to this song of yours, a situation of disharmony and tension has arisen in the society," the notice says.
Samajwadi Party chief and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav also took up the issue in the Assembly on Thursday. "You should be happy that someone is singing a good song. 'UP mai ka ba' and you sent them a notice. I might be the first chief minister who got a book of his cartoons published," Yadav said in the house, implying that criticism should be taken in good stride.
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