It started off as a Facebook page to bring members of the community together, but in a few short months, it has evolved into a much-loved platform that’s spearheading a cultural revolution of sorts.
The Bol Haryana Facebook page, which was launched in July 2016, has more than 1.76 lakh followers and flaunts a verified badge. Getting featured on this page has proved to be the breakout moment for two folk singers, who are now bringing out their own albums.
A high school student’s rendition of a devotional song went viral and made her a star.
Such has been the success of Bol Haryana that an event was organised in Rohtak on January 1, 2017, to celebrate it. Folk singers and dancers from across the state took part in it and even state ministers were in attendance, where the two ministers announced a financial aid of Rs 5 lakh each.
The seeds of the idea were sown in February 2016, when Jats’ protest demanding reservation in higher education and government jobs turned violent. The 10-day protest, which saw arson, vandalism and, reportedly, rape, brought much disrepute to the state. That, coupled with stereotyping of Haryana in films and social media as a place where kangaroo courts pass bizarre diktats and a girl child is considered a bane, prompted three Haryanvi men to take some damage-control measures.
All the three — Pawan Tokas (34), Manu Parashar (28), and Joginder Barak (36) — are based in Australia. Tokas lives in Sydney and hails from Munirka village. Barak hails from Sonipat and lives in Queensland. Parashar works for the Melbourne City Council. They live 800 km apart. Barak said the three of them had never met in real life, but were connected through the posts they’d share on Facebook about Haryana’s culture, heritage, language and issues concerning the state. In the aftermath of the Jat agitation, they started Bol Haryana.
Tokas said they began by sharing folk songs, jokes, local tales, cuisines and recipes. The page started gaining followers not only from Haryana, but also from Rajasthan, Punjab and Pakistan. Parashar said Bol Haryana wanted to reach out to people and create a platform transcending boundaries. Soon, people started demanding more content and some even offered their free services to spread the message, he said.
Manu Parashar said Bol Haryana wanted to reach out to people and create a platform transcending boundaries. Soon, people started demanding more content and some even offered their free services to spread the message
Tokas said a veteran journalist, a retired doctor-cum-folk artist and others joined them as advisers to engage the community better. Gradually, the strength of their team expanded to 11. They all work for free. Rajnarayan Panghal, an advocate from Bhiwani, said he was so impressed with the endeavour of Bol Haryana that he joined the team to do his bit. In a rustic Haryanvi accent and with a smile on his face, he spoke about how he now spends time hunting for local talent to feature on the Facebook page.
Panghal’s is a crucial responsibility, as getting featured on the page can make a world of difference to an artiste. Just ask Megha Sehrawat and Mandeep Panghal. Their rendition of folk songs became a hit after they were shared on the Facebook page. These artistes gained considerable exposure — so much so that now they are in touch with writers regarding releasing albums of their own. A beautifully sung bhajan by Vidhi, a class IX student of a Rohtak village, fetched more than 20 lakh views after the video was shared on Bol Haryana’s Facebook page.
Spurred by this success, the team has started an online radio channel too, featured on their website and Android-only app, which enjoys a 4.9/5 rating
Spurred by this success, the team has started an online radio too, featured on their website and Android-only app, which enjoys a 4.9/5 rating. The radio has become a popular platform, and budding RJs curate it for free, since it gives them vital exposure. There’s even a WhatsApp broadcast in place to alert the subscribers about the various activities of Bol Haryana.
Pardeep Kumar, a regular listener of the online radio, praises it for enabling him to connect with his roots easily and at his convenience. People’s overwhelming response to the initiative has encouraged the team to dream big. Tokas said they are aiming at making Bol Haryana so big that it starts making money. Also, they want to organise more events to showcase the various aspects of Haryanvi culture.
Haryana on YouTube
Before Bol Haryana, a Haryanvi couple living in Australia had won the hearts of their brethren through their gags and sketches uploaded on YouTube, made in their mother tongue. Their YouTube channel, Sheorans, boasts of more than 1.1 crore views. Another YouTube channel by a Haryana native based in New York, LShokeen Films, had come up in 2014 with gags that had a Haryanvi flavour. It has amassed more than 4.8 lakh subscribers and more than 8.1 crore views.
Haryanvi content has a mass audience on internet and such players are only too happy, and honoured, to be in the picture. While some go down the tried and tested path of making funny videos, Bol Haryana is looking to spread word about their culture.
Read other stories in the Tech Meets Bharat series.
The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Sat Singh (Twitter: @satsingh15) is a Rohtak based independent journalist and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.