In a video now viral on the internet, Assam boy Rahul Rajkhowa, in his own words, “gets straight to the point”: the Citizenship Amendment Bill, an issue recently dominating all kind discourses in Assam, and the Northeast. “Go on pass the Bill, Watch thousands kill in your name, Cause to you this is just a game,” raps the 24-year-old singer-songwriter based in Bengaluru.
Uploaded on Youtube on January 30, Rajkhowa wrote the lyrics to “Rap against Citizenship Amendment Bill” earlier that same afternoon. “The current situation was getting to me. I couldn’t sit in peace,” he says. So the young musician went straight to his bedroom in his home in Guwahati, took out his cellphone and began recording. “I probably could have spent more money by making a proper video. But that’s not the point — I wanted to tell others out there that anyone can do this, if they wanted to be heard, if they wanted to make a difference.”
For his part Rajkhowa — who specialises in the HipHop and RnB genres — has been creating “socially-relevant” music since 2017, ever since he was a student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Back then he sang about the administration’s decision to cut over 80 percent seats in the MPhil and PhD admissions.
In his song about the Bill, Rajkhowa calls out the “bhakts” for their ignorance: “Ya’ll are like dumb sheep there’s way too many; You wanted more like you so you sacrifice my NE.” “I have travelled through out Northeast for my gigs. I have been to the most pristine locations for my videos. And everything is getting ruined because there are simply so many settlements courtesy the influx of population,” says Rajkhowa, adding “One can’t help but worry about the future of Assam.”
In the week, the video has been shared over a thousand times on various social media platforms. However, it has received its fair share of backlash too. “I get hate mail on Twitter. People write to me saying the most absurd things — ‘Northeast does not understand Indian politics, Northeast requires more Hindus because no one there can speak Hindi,’ among others,” says Rajkhowa, “Someone even said I do not understand the ‘benefits’ of the Bill. Even on humanitarian grounds — what benefits are these when the Bill is leaving out one religious community?”
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha on January 9, seeks to provide citizenship to six religious minority communities (excluding Muslims) from three countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. While the Bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha, there have been widespread protests throughout Northeast — a region that has been dealing with the influx of migrants at the risk of decimating their own indigenous population — against it.
In the past month, other musicians from the region — popular Assamese singer Zubeen Garg and Manipur musician Akhu Chingambam — have also come out with songs against the Bill. “I saw Zubeen Garg’s song and that inspired me. His was in Assamese and appreciated by the people here. I thought of doing mine in English so that it reaches audiences outside Assam too. We need to fight this together,” he says.
While many people outside Assam have reached out to Rajkhowa praising him, his critics are mostly BJP supporters, he says. “Some have told me on Twitter: This kid does not understand Indian politics.” Rajkhowa says he is not anti or pro any political party. “As artistes, if we do not question the government, who will? History has shown that music has the power to stop wars and start revolutions. I am trying to do my bit,” he says.