Former singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya has all the credentials of a sanskari troll. Every time he opens his mouth, it rains abuses against ‘Left-liberals and secularists.’ When he tweets, which is generally after sunset when his sobriety is suspect, he either spreads a canard, calls someone a terrorist or a ‘Paki dalal’ or calls for retributive action. And when he is countered with facts, he retorts like all social media warriors of his ideology—with vitriolic personal comments justified in the name of Hindutva.
Perhaps the only difference between Hindutva trolls and Abhijeet is that the out-of-work singer is foolhardy enough to use his own name. But, you can put that down to craving for ‘wah wah’ and fame.
On Saturday, in typical Abhijeet fashion, the singer gave a call for avenging Infosys engineer S Swathi’s murder in Chennai past week. Tagging the PMO, Abhijeet tweeted “Hindu parents want justice for Swati/revenge for our child who was butchered by love jihad.”
Swathi, 24, was hacked to death on 24 June while waiting for a train at a platform in Chennai’s Nungambakkam railway station. A week later, police arrested Ramkumar, a 22-year-old engineering student from Chennai as the main accused. Perhaps a case of unrequited love, but certainly no jihad that requires revenge by unified Hindu parents.
When facts—anathema to all sanskari trolls—were pointed out to Abhijeet, he started calling journalists names—budhiya, Paki-licker—inviting attention from the Mumbai police for his communal tirade and abuses.
Abhijeet is well-known for his Twitter rants and hate speech. In the past, he advocated Prashant Bhushan be assaulted with shoes and compared Pakistani singers with terrorists. He had also called filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt an agent of Pakistani artists.
In 2015, after a Mumbai court’s verdict in the hit-and-run case, he had defended Salman Khan by arguing that dogs who sleep on pavements deserve to die like dogs.
From sycophantic defence of actors accused of mowing down people to defending Hindutva, Abhijeet, obviously, covers a wide ideological spectrum, tilts at a range of enemies, including hapless pavement dwellers.
Abhijeet’s problem is not difficult to diagnose. Till 2000, Abhijeet was a reasonably successful singer. He belonged to an era when Indian singers used to make a living singing cover versions of songs rendered by the fab three of Indian cinema—Mukesh, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar. For almost a decade, clones of these three singers—Shabbir Kumar, Mohammad Aziz, Kumar Sanu, Babla Mehta, Kumar Sanu and Abhijeet—dominated Indian playback (and cover version) singing. But, as Indians got used to fresh voices and other styles of singing, the market was flooded by a range of singers, edging out the likes of Abhijeet from circulation.
His sour-grapes attitude didn’t help him either. A few years ago, he threatened never to sing again for Shahrukh Khan—the actor whose films featured most of the singer’s popular songs—unless he apologises to Abhijeet. On another occasion he boasted of walking out of AR Rahman’s studio after being made to wait for several hours.
Abhijeet’s constant fulminations against Pakistani singers suggest he feels his era ended because of Bollywood’s invasion by artists from across the border. Like all bigots, he suffers from deep-rooted sense of personal failure that he has conditioned himself to attribute to ‘outsiders.’
Incientally, even if that were true—it isn’t—he should have been blaming Indian producers and fans, most of them Hindus, who embraced voices from Pakistan, instead of ranting against singers who found patrons in India.
Bigotry begins with exaggerated fear—of death, unemployment, cultural invasion, et al—rooted in some personal experience. And Abhijeet’s frustration seems to have originated in the erroneous justification of his own failure. Others of his era—Kumar Sanu, Mohd Aziz and Shabbir Kumar—have acted with remarkable restraint, pose and grace. Abhijeet, however has made a fool of himself by exposing himself as a tragic figure who swings between bigotry and sycophancy in search of lost glory.