On the Controversy regarding Dhan te nan

or Mad censorship in India

Once again I was watching TV with a friend and MTV beeped Teli ka tel from Kaminey's Dhan te nan. I don't know what is the political status of the song and if the words are actually supposed to be banned as per the governments. But then here is my take on the words and the 'offensive' nature of theirs.

As per those who have banned the words, I can tell you that their problem is with the Hindi word 'teli' which is, according to them, a caste. As a matter of fact, the word is used for someone who deals in oil. But since India has a caste system that was based on works people did, it is a caste as well. And since it's considered to be a 'lower' caste (which more than anything serves the purpose of politicians who cash this high and low of castes), this has been banned, irrespective of the fact the song and the line has nothing to do with the community.

A similar problem was observed with the lyrics of Aaja Nachle when the line 'kahe mochi bhi khud ko sunaar hai' (even a cobbler call himself a jeweller) was removed from a song. Here again, on the similar grounds, Mochi (cobbler) and Sunaar (goldsmith) were declared castes and the song was called a casteist one.

Interestingly, this may be worth a notice that mochi and sunaar are words of daily use, and as far as I know, at least ninety-nine times out of hundred they are used for the respective professions, especially in case of mochi, which is the keyword here for being the lower one if they are supposed to be castes. AND that there are no alternative words that can be used for these professions, which may not signify castes at all.

So, the case is something like, either the politicians will have to make some changes in the dictionaries and add new, non-casteable words for the professions (consider how it'll make the poetry) or if things keep going like that, there will be a number of words and thoughts our poets will never be able to say out loud. Think of a greater misfortune for a country which is proud of its literature in not one but many languages.

And yes, the politicians do not limit themselves to the poets of today, they have tried editing the best of the best, even the likes of Munshi Premchand, stating such petty reasons. See THIS POST if you're interested in that one.


Bija Andrew Wright said...

Thanks for this--I've listened to "Dhan Te Nan" a lot and love it, but I had no idea why it was bleeped on MTV when I was in India.

Suveda said...

Thanks for the info.

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