YouTube removed late Punjabi singer, Sidhu Moosewala’s music video “SYL” following a request for removal by the government of India on the 26th of June.
History of the SYL Dispute
The song, named after the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, was released on youtube on 23rd June, following the Singer’s assassination just weeks prior. The song touched on the SYL canal dispute, and the 1984 Sikh riots and featured images of the Sikh flag being hoisted at the red fort during the farmer riots in 2021. The song brought attention to the desertification of Punjab.
The cover of the song showed an image of Sikh activist Balwinder Singh Jattana on a motorcycle, who was infamous for bringing the construction of the SYL canal to a halt in 1990. Jattana was a part of Babbar Khalsa, a pro-khalistani group. In a protest regarding the SYL canal, Jattana and his associates were responsible for the murder of the chiel and superintending engineer of the SYL canal on July 23, 1990. The construction of the SYL canal has been at a standstill since that day. Jattana’s family, including 5-year-old Simranjit Singh, were burned alive in their house following an attack on the former SSP and DGP of Punjab. Jattana perished in a police shootout on September 4, 1991.
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched the SYL canal project in 1982 at Kapoori Village of the Patiala District. The canal’s initial goal was to share the Sutlej river’s water with Haryana, Over the years the canal has transformed into a legal issue between Punjab, Haryana, and the Central Government.
The song starts with Haryana’s AAP MP Sushil Gupta, quoting, “SYL’s water would reach every field of Haryana by 2025. This is not a promise, but a guarantee.”
Moosewala sings about demanding sovereignty, and the unification of Punjab Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. He sings about the release of Sikh prisoners Davinder Pal Bhullar, Jagtar Singh Hawara, Gurdeep Singh Khaira, Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh, Jagtar Singh Tara, and Balwant Singh Rajoana.
The video also contained visuals of the 2021 Delhi Chalo campaign, the hoisting of the Sikh Flag on the Red Fort in Delhi.
Moosewala ends the song with a direct message to the audience, talking about saving Punjab Waters, preventing desertification of Punjab, and releasing the Sikh prisoners.
Why was the video removed?
Youtube put out a statement as follows, “We have clear policies for removal requests from governments around the world. We review government removal requests when notified through the correct legal processes, and also review content for violations of our community guidelines. And, where appropriate, we restrict or remove the content in keeping with local laws and our Terms of Service after a thorough review. All of these requests are tracked and included in our transparency report”. This is all that was detailed, without mentioning any specific reason for the removal of the video. The video had gained 27+ million views on the platform and 3.3 million likes as well.
What can lead to the removal of a video?
Youtube has many mechanisms in place for the removal of videos. These include community reporting, complaints from the government, law enforcement agency requests, court orders, etc. The Government can also directly communicate with Google’s public policy team and get the video removed. These videos can be taken down based on infringement of intellectual rights, hate speech, defamation, and violation of local laws.
The video is banned from India Youtube for good, and Moosewala is no more. There has been a surge of attention on the SYL canal case, and Punjabi youth is outraged. The government and political parties of the region are to gain control of the situation before it escalates like the farmer riots in 2021.