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4-min read

Diss(ent) Song: This Assamese Musician is Using Rap to Protest the Citizenship Bill

In the song, 24-year-old musician and activist Rahul Rajkhowa talks about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and how it is affecting the people of Assam as well as others.

Rakhi Bose | @theotherbose

Updated:February 12, 2019, 6:25 PM IST
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Diss(ent) Song: This Assamese Musician is Using Rap to Protest the Citizenship Bill
Rahul Rajkhowa, 24, is from Assam and has graduated with a masters degree from Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University | Source: YouTube/Twitter

Rahul Rajkhowa, a 24-year-old musician from Assam, has written a powerful song to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill is currently awaiting the Rajya Sabha's approval.

The Bill seeks to provide citizenship status to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Christian or Buddhists migrating to India from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh. However, the provision does not extend to Muslim migrants or other minorities such as Jews.

Assam has not been happy with the Bill as many in the state including major political parties believe that Hindus, Sikhs and others fleeing persecution in Bangladesh to Assam will have a counter-productive effect on indigenous Assamese people.

Over the past few months, the state has been plunged in violent protests and even BJP's coalition partner Asom Gana Parishad has spoken against the passing of the Bill.

In light of the protests, Rajkhowa decided to become a part of the protests by writing a song about the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Rajkhowa was disappointed when he recently watched the Ranveer Singh-Alia Bhatt interview with film critic Anupama Chopra regarding the political undertones of the 'Azadi' song from their upcoming film 'Gully Boy'. He had thought that since the actors had forayed into the world of hip-hop, they would have understood something about the so-called "language of dissent". But the actors' lukewarm and "privileged" responses were yet another reminder to him that not many artists risk the unpopularity of associating themselves with dissent.

"As artists, it is our job to protest against injustice as we have followers who closely watch and emulate us, " Rajkhowa told News18 over the phone. "I have just 3,000 subscribers on YouTube. Yet I chose to use my influence to educate people about an important issue rather than just entertain."

In his song, the rapper takes a stand against the government. Noting the government's apparent tendency to not address criticism, he adds that it played the blame-game whenever someone pointed out a mistake.

Rajkhowa, who graduated in History from St Stephen's College in Delhi and went on to pursue a masters degree in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University, has been rapping for about five years now, though he started 'seriously' performing since 2017.

He raps about injustice, inequality, sexism, and jingoism. In 2017, his rap attacking rape jokes and nationalism went viral. However, Rajkhowa maintained that his music is a mix of street hip-hop as well as commercial, mainstream music. He started by playing gigs at clubs and parties in the city itself. Now he performs internationally, having just returned from a tour of Thailand. He has even appeared in the film 'Bewakoofiyaan' alongside Ayushmaan Khurana and Sonam Kapoor and has a loyal following among hip-hop fans.

"It's not just activists or students who listen to me. My audience includes a wide range of people who often do not engage with politics or news except on social media," Rajkhowa said. This was the reason he chose to rap about the Citizenship Bill so that he could reach out to a wider audience with it. "I cannot physically be a part of the protests because of my shows. So I did my part with my phone," Rajkhowa added.

In the rap, the activist goes on to talk about how it is affecting the people of Assam as well as others.

Many Assamese have also protested against the Bill, saying that it goes against the Assam Accord signed in 1985 between Rajiv Gandhi and AASU. According to the agreement, persons entering Assam after March 24, 1971 will be considered illegal immigrants and deported.

In the rap, Rajkhowa says that the increase in immigrants that the Bill may cause will add to the many existing problems of unemployment, environmental erosion, poaching of wildlife and man-animal conflicts that exist in the state. "With 10 lakh immigrants, north-east is going to be crammed," goes the song.

"It is not just Assam that will suffer but all of India. Imagine what 10 lakh immigrants can do to an already overburdened economy and resources," the 24-year-old told News18.

"You wanted more like you so you sacrifice my NE (North-East)," one of the lines in the song goes.

His angry lyrics have moved many on social media, which has turned into a hotbed for criticism and counter-criticism of the proposed Bill. And Rajkhowa's rap, which was released on his Youtube channel on Jan 30, already has over 24,000 views.

Recently, the video was shared by Lhingkim H Shingnaisui Kim, Secretary of the All India Mahila Congress in Assam. Her post alone has over 2000 'likes'.

Widespread protests have engulfed states in the northeast after the government passed the Bill in the Lok Sabha during the winter session on January 8.

Section 144 has been imposed in Imphal and all internet services were suspended on Monday night, as massive protests jolt the state capital.

On Sunday, at least six women were injured when police fired tear gas shells at a group of people who had gathered to protest against the bill in Imphal. The violent protests against the Bill continued on Monday and the police used tear gas to dispel the agitators.

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