While the Punjab government has initiated a crackdown against singers and film producers promoting violence, drugs, liquor and objectification of women, the Punjab Arts Council (Punjab Kala Parishad), the state’s only constitutionally notified body that has eminent artists from all fields, has no power to initiate legal action regarding the same.
This, nearly 40 years after it was created in 1979 and notified by Punjab government in 1981.
Recent measures by the state
On Tuesday, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had during the ongoing Budget session in Vidhan Sabha said that the state will not allow release of any movie promoting gangsters and violence which may “disturb the hard-earned peace” of Punjab.
Recently, Mansa police had booked Punjabi singers Shubhdeep Singh alias Sidhu Moose Wala and Mankirt Aulakh for singing ‘’Pakhiyan, pakhiyan…gun vich panj goliyaan, ni tere panj veeran layi rakhiyan…(I have five bullets in my gun for your five brothers)” in a video on social media.
The state government had also recently banned the movie ‘Shooter’ and booked its makers. Slated for release, the film was based on the life of notorious slain gangster Sukha Kahlwan. Punjabi singer Elly Mangat was also booked by Ludhiana police for alleged celebratory firing at a birthday party and then putting out a video on social media.
The council’s roles and functions
The Punjab Arts Council, with its headquarters at Punjab Kala Bhawan, Chandigarh, has as its chairman eminent poet Padma Shri Dr Surjit Patar, who was nominated by former cultural affairs minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. An autonomous body, the council receives funding from the state government. Apart from a chairman, vice-chairman and general secretary, the council has two bodies — general and executive — with 30 and 13 members respectively, which have to conduct meetings regularly.
There are three Akademis which function under the council — the Sangeet Natak Akademi (music, theatre, dance, folk), Punjab Sahit Akademi (literature) and Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi (fine arts) — covering arts in all fields and receiving funding via the council. The presidents of the three Akademis are also members of the council. Even the vice-chancellors of Punjab’s four universities or their representatives — including Panjab University (PU) Chandigarh, Punjabi University Patiala, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Ludhiana and Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) Amritsar — are the members of the council.
The organisation holds no legal power to initiate action against singers or artists promoting violence or inappropriate action. It does however, have the power to pass resolutions and write to the cultural affairs minister recommending action against such artists. However, it hasn’t been doing so, nor have its members raised their voices against these recent trends.
Govt control impractical, lok lehar needed: Chairman
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Surjit Patar, chairman of the Punjab Arts Council, said the council has no “legal powers” to take any action against singers promoting violence. However, he also feels that “government control over such artists is not only impractical but also questionable”, and what is needed is a “lok lehar” (people’s movement) to spread awareness so people themselves reject such artists and their creations.
“Our council has no legal power to initiate action against any artist promoting violence. However, in 2017 there were discussions over having a Punjab Cultural Commission which would have been granted legal powers to take such action. However, the idea met with opposition and could not materialise because government control over singers or lyricists in quite impractical and questionable. It is impractical because songs can be recorded in other states too if not Punjab and then even if you stop recording, you cannot stop anything on YouTube or internet these days,” said Patar.
He added, “It is questionable because if you are stopping someone from singing or writing something, it is curtailing their right to freedom of expression. The idea to have a Cultural Commission was opposed within our community because of these two reasons.”
Dr Patar further said, “There has to be a people’s movement. There has to be that awareness so educated youths and audiences themselves reject such artists and songs. I feel what is stopped forcibly comes back with more power, by hook or crook. You will stop recordings but they will reach youths via YouTube or any other platform. Punjab needs a pressure group to counter this bad practice. We are discussing formation of such a group which will speak out against bad songs or creations. Council is already promoting good musicians and quality content to counter violent songs.”
“Even films show a lot of bad content but they are passed by censor boards, so how will you stop someone singing or recording in Punjabi outside Punjab? It is nearly impractical to scrutinise each word being written or recorded. There are recording studios everywhere. It is the people who need to be awakened against inappropriate content through a pressure group which speaks against these singers,” he added.
It is our job to flag the wrong, says council member
However, Dr Nirmal Singh Jaura, vice-president, Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi and general body member of the Punjab Arts Council, said that the council still has the powers to pass resolutions and write to the cultural affairs minister against bad content, but isn’t doing so.
“Till now we haven’t given in writing against any singer or artist to the government whereas it is in our powers to pass resolutions during general body meetings. We should have done that instead of waiting for the government or police to do it. It is our work to flag the wrong being done to Punjabi culture and music. We have no power to take any legal action, but we have the power to recommend action to government. It has been our fault…,” he added.
Lakhwinder Singh Johal, general secretary of the council, said a general body meeting has to be heldevery six months and an executive body meeting every three months as per rules.
Songs full of drugs & bullets
G Wagon by Sidhu Moose Wala: ‘Jatt uss pind nu belong karda jithe banda maarke kasoor puchde…’ (Jatt belongs to a village where we first kill a person and then ask later what his fault was)
Outlaw by Sidhu Moose Wala: ‘Assi goliyaan de naal mukne nahi..medalan wangu parche ne, aidde-aidde kaand kare, Parliament tak charche ne…’ (We aren’t the ones who will be finished with bullets, FIRs on us are like medals, our deeds are a matter of discussion in Parliament)
Red Eyes by Karan Aujla: ‘Oh tere Aujle di police nu bhaal goriye, oh all India license sare asle main karda na show ni…’ (Girl, your Aujla is wanted by police, I don’t flaunt it but I have an ‘All India’ license for all wepaons)
Drug by Harpreet Dhillon: ‘Loki aakh de ne mere naal fassi hoyi hai, Ni tu jatt de blood vich sohniye drug vangu rachi hoyi hai…’ (People say you are committed to me, you are like a drug injected in my blood)
Veervar by Diljit Dosanjh: ‘Veer vaar din na parhej karda…’ (sons of Jatt don’t follow restrictions even on Thursday and consume liquor)
Jatt Fire Karda by Diljit Dosanjh: ‘Jithe hundi aa pabandi hathiyar di ni, othe jatt fire karda’ (It is where weapons are banned that a Jatt fires shots proudly)
32 Bore by Dilpreet Dhillon: ‘Tu taan aakhe tere vich main bolda, mere vicho bole billo 32 bore da’ (When I speak, it is not me but a .32 bore revolver speaking)
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