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'Will Continue to Speak for Social Change,' Says Bengal Folk Artiste Attacked by Hindutva Group

Traditionally, kirtan songs served as devotional expressions. However, Deen Krishna Thakur's advocated for humanism over rigid religious structures. This angered local Hindutva groups.
Deen Krishna Thakur. Photo: By arrangement.

Kolkata: A Bengali folk artiste from the South 24 Parganas district, known for his unique kirtan songs that often speak of social justice and carry new interpretations of Hindu scripture has faced violent attacks from a local Hindutva group who are opposed to his social messages.

On February 9, a Hindutva group called Sanatan Dharmavadi dragged Deen Krishna Thakur from his ancestral home in Hatchapari village of Jayanagar and took him to a temple, where he faced blows and threats. In a video of the episode, that has been circulated on social media, attackers can be heard asking the artiste about his right to identify as ‘Thakur’. Videos also show police dragging him away to safety.

“Deen Krishna’s surname is Naskar, this means that he is from the Namashudra Dalit Matua community, how dare he identify himself as Thakur?” people in the video are heard saying.

They also threatened him against identifying himself as a kirtanya – a kirtan singer.

Thakur’s approach to the Vaishnavite devotional songs borders on social development and also brings him significant following. He is known for  questioning certain aspects of Hindu scriptures and advocating for humanism over Brahmanism.

His criticism of the character and actions of deities – as represented in the scriptures – is what is believed to have caused ire among Hindutva activists.

Undeterred by the threat, Thakur continues to perform across the state. He told The Wire that he was being threatened for over two years and is glad that the matter is no longer simmering.

“I speak of logic. It is not desirable to have obscenity in the scriptures. I want to fight them with logic, not with force. I do not hurt anyone’s religious beliefs. Schools, colleges and health centres are more important than temple-mosque politics. Let the government stop giving sops and help agriculture and industry truly flourish. Let employment come,” said Thakur.

Thakur added that he is not likely to stop. “B.R. Ambedkar, Sri Chaitanya, and Harichand Guruchand Thakur have said worthwhile things. I am just repeating those in villages,” he said.

Jayanta Bhowmik, spokesperson of Vishwa Hindu Parishad in West Bengal, is one who does not see this kindly. 

“It has become fashionable to proclaim that people opposing Hinduism are also Hindu. Deen Krishna Thakur is an outcome of this trend. Parents name their children after gods, so it is disheartening if the child later adopts a secular stance,” said Bhowmik.

Traditionally, kirtan songs within the Hindu Vaishnava community have served as devotional expressions. However, Thakur’s approach delves deeper, drawing upon Hindu scriptures to advocate for humanism over rigid religious structures. 

“I am not surprised that radical Hinduism would attack a folk artiste like this. Those who sing kirtan-baul songs do not follow BJP’s Hindutva line. Their religious world is different. But these attackers cannot accept any different opinion,” said historian Tapati Guha-Thakurta, who has written extensively on the region’s cultural history.

Advocate and CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said that an attack on an artiste is never acceptable. 

While Bengal rights groups have voiced their support for Thakur, the music fraternity has remained conspicuously quiet.

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