“Sanu sada pichokad, te sada laana de diyo…” croons Sidhu Moosewala in his latest single “SYL”, the first song to be released posthumously after the Punjabi rapper's mysterious death last month. The song's lyrics that speak about the SYL Canal have already gone viral and within 30 minutes of its release, it became the top trending song on YouTube music with a million hits.
Staying true to his penchant for speaking about social issues, Moosewala's new song talks about the water dispute, undivided Punjab, 1984 Sikh riots, Sikh militants, Sikh prisoners and Sikh flag hoisting at the Red Fort during the farmer’s protest. The song starts with the recent statement of Aam Adami Party’s Shushil Gupta, “Now we have a government in Punjab. In 2024, AAP will form the government in Haryana too. In 2025, water will reach every farm in Haryana. This is not our promise but our guarantee.” The song begins as the statement fades out.
According to the rapper's fans, Sidhu Moosewala was loved because he always depicted the truth of his times and exhorted the youth to realize that the solution to their hond (existence) did not lie in leaving their villages. Through this song, he speaks about one of the key issues that continue to act as a bone of contention in the state - the water sharing issue with nearby states like Haryana.
The song starts with Moosewala demanding sovereignty over the lands that was given to Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal (Originally, they were part of Punjab or the Sikh empire). "Till you give us sovereignty path, we will not give you a drop of Punjab’s water", he sings. (“Oh, jinna chir saanu sovereignty da raah ni dinde, ohna chir paani chhado tupka ni dinde…”)
The SYL issue has been a contentious matter in the state for years and is considered to be a prime contributing factor in the rise of militancy in Punjab. "Pani da ki e, Pani tan pulan thalon vagna/Sanu nal rala lao lakh bhave, Thale ni lagna/Dabke nal mangde O, Asi tan nai dinde/Una chir pani chaco, Tupka nai dinde", Moosewala sings. (Water will keep flowing under bridges. You can win us with love but we will not bow to you. We won’t give you water because you are offensive in asking)
Apart from the SYL issue, Moosewala also raps about how Sikh political prisoners are referred to as terrorists, in an apparent reference to the farmers' protests. "Oh kaun si att te attwadi, Gawaahi dedeyo…Hun taan bandi singha nu, Rehaai de deyo (Who was the terrorist? Give us the evidence. It is time you give freedom to Sikh political prisoners...until then we will not give you a drop of water).
While some of the contentious lyrics of the song are causing debate on Twitter, Moosewala's fans have hailed the song as a message for water conservation and a call for preserving Punjabi pride and heritage.
Message of #SidhuMooseWala𓃵 of saving water should be taken positively by Punjabis, farmers of both Punjab & Haryana states. They will have to adopt measures to save water in agriculture like diversification, reducing paddy, adopting DSR techniques. #SavePunjabWaters#SYL— Jaskaran Singh (@JKSinghCH) June 23, 2022
There's one kind of artist who gets praise for taking political stands. I feel Sidhu Moose Wala was a level above - he could create political consciousness. #SYL is a brilliant example of this. Even after dying he is inspiring people to take up this issue— Aditya Menon (@AdityaMenon22) June 24, 2022
What is SYL?
Satluj Yamuna Link Canal or SYL as it is popularly known is an under-construction 214-kilometre-long canal in India to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers. Due to continuous opposition, the case for the construction of this canal is with Supreme Court.
The issue dates back to 1966 when Punjab was reorganised for the formation of Haryana. Punjab was opposed to sharing the water of its two rivers- Ravi and Beas with the new state.
Before the formation of Haryana, the Central government measured the water flowing capacity of Ravi and Beas in 1955, and it was concluded that both rivers have 15.85 million acres feet (MAF) of water flowing through them each year. The government then decided to allocate this water to Jammu and Kashmir (0.65 MAF), Rajasthan (8 MAF) and undivided Punjab (7.2 MAF). But after the formation of Haryana, the government allotted 7.2 MAF to Haryana. In a reassessment in 1981, the water flowing down in the rivers was estimated at 17.17MF, of which 4.22 MAF was allocated to Punjab, 3.5 MAF to Haryana and 8.6 MAF to Rajasthan.
The SYL Canal: On April 8, 1982, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi formally launched the construction of the canal at Kapoori village of Patiala. The Akali Dal party launched an agitation in the form of Kapoori Morcha against the construction of the canal. In 1985, the Akali Dal party came into power and they signed an accord with then PM Rajiv Gandhi. The accord was signed after Ravi and Beas Waters Tribunal headed by Supreme Court judge V Balakrishna reassessed water availability and increased the shares of both Punjab and Haryana, allocating them 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF respectively. It was also noted that while the canal's portion had been completed in Haryana, the portion in Punjab wasn't and urged that it be completed expeditiously. The Akali Dal government in Punjab started the construction of the canal. But the construction was never completed
As on August, 20,1985, Sant Harchand Singh Langowal, then chief of Akali Dal was shot dead by the militants as he signed the accords. In 1990, a chief engineer associated with the project was also shot dead. The construction came to halt due to such incidents; Punjab leaders have been cautioning the Centre not to rake up the issue as whenever the issue is addressed a series of protests occur in the state.
On one hand, Haryana is in dire need of this water as its underwater layer is depleting and it is widely affecting agricultural land. But Punjab argues that many areas in Punjab may go dry after 2029. The agricultural state has over-exploited its groundwater for growing crops like wheat and paddy. Out of 138 blocks of Punjab, 109 are over-exploited, two are critical and five are semi-critical. In this situation, the Punjab government argues that they are in no state to share water.