Pali Kaur: I Thought Dilpreet Dhillon Had Been Cancelled
Amber Dhaliwal shook the Punjabi music industry last summer when she publicly accused her ex-husband, Dilpreet Dhillon, of domestic violence
June 8, 2021 | 3.5 min. read | Opinion
Amber Dhaliwal shook the Punjabi music industry last summer when she publicly accused her ex-husband, Dilpreet Dhillon, of domestic violence.
Dhillon, a popular singer, was at the top of his game, releasing hits such as Gunday No. 1 and the movie Once Upon a Time in Amritsar. In response to his ex-wife’s allegations, Dhillon went live and released his own tearful reply, denying everything and begging people to let him heal his marriage.
Dhillon, however, was disingenuous and it seemed like he was acting. It seemed so obvious to me, I thought there was no way others in our community would not see through the fake tears. I honestly thought for once, a man in the Punjabi industry would be held accountable by his audience, forced to explain himself, apologize, and be better.
I thought Dilpreet Dhillon had been cancelled.
Then, just a few months later, Dhillon made a comeback. He released the Karara Jawab, a ridiculously violent song but with the usual pop sound so well-liked by the Punjabi audience. The hit song relaunched Dhillon into stardom. Despite Dhaliwal’s brave step in speaking out and facing the wrath of our community, it seemed like no one cared about her story. Dhillon’s music sounded great to a lot of people so he was allowed to keep his private troubles separate from his art.
The people with the power to question Dhillon about his past are not doing their jobs. Specifically, it is the Punjabi-speaking media that is pretending Dhillon never abused his wife. They are giving him a free pass and letting him get away with soft-ball interviews where no one asks him about his stance on violence against women. His interview with a Canadian Punjabi outlet was all sunshine and rainbows and smiles, no hard questions, no uncomfortable topics.
Interview after interview with Dhillon has the same, comfortable content—both Dhillon and the interviewers are promoting a toxic positivity that ignores any accountability for famous men, or any men at all, for domestic violence.
At least the English-speaking Punjabi audience is not letting him off easy. Plenty of diaspora Gen Z are making memes mocking Dilpreet by using screenshots of his teary-eyed face. The image, a screenshot of his video reply to his ex-wife, does not jive with his tough-guy persona. In fact, this is one reason people are using it.
Sahibvir Nijjar, with the Twitter, handle @sahibvirnijjar, created a few memes with Dhillon’s image. His tweets garnered hundreds of likes.
“I saw his crying face on Twitter because someone posted it. And the reason I make memes of him crying are because he is a domestic abuse perpetrator. His ex-wife talked about what he did to her [but], at the same time, he didn’t really respond to the allegations,” he said.
Sadly, despite the dispora’s critical eye, Dhillon’s latest music videos continue getting millions of views. He continues collaborating with huge names like Karan Aujla and Gurlez Akhtar. A perusal of the comments sections shows that most fans attracted to his music are not even concerned about Amber Dhaliwal’s allegations. If his marriage is mentioned, it is usually in the context of wishing him well and hoping the exes are able to mend things.
The problem with Dilpreet Dhillon is that he is just a famous example of a widespread problem. If he is allowed to go scot-free what hope do normal people have? Domestic violence in the Punjabi community is a hidden plague.
Allegations of violence against women are treated as personal problems and not community-wide public health issues. These larger societal trends are manifesting themselves in the way Dhillon was welcomed back with open arms even after being accused of gratuitously abusing his ex-wife. The no-questions-asked attitude is disturbing.
The only glimmer of hope in this whole situation is that women like Dhaliwal are speaking out. A key player in this movement is the Instagram page for @thekaurmovement, which gives domestic violence victims like Dhaliwal a platform to speak out, at times anonymously, to pursue some form of justice in the public. Although an anonymous accusation without investigation is far from perfect, this is all that many women, like Dhaliwal, get.
While it is true that there are two sides to every story, we also know, our culture is in dire need of introspection. When a woman like Amber Dhaliwal speaks out, we need to listen and amplify her voice, not ridicule her or make the man who allegedly beat her, an even bigger superstar.
Pali Kaur is a blogger and educator based out of California. She works with immigrant communities, focusing on Spanish and Punjabi speakers. You can find her on Twitter at @wittypunjaban
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