Away from the obscenity of a parade of tanks, nuclear missiles, and military might, the citizens of Delhi, once again (yesterday, the 26th of January, Republic Day) demonstrated that their re-definition of citizenship and the idea of a republic does not necessarily need an army, the AFSPA, restrictive laws like section 377, moral policing, censorship and assaults on workers, gay, lesbian and transgender people, women, the young, pensioners, minorities, Africans and other non-Indian inhabitants of Delhi, disabled people, or discrimination against people from the North East and Kashmir. Since last year, in the wake of the anti-rape protests, the 26th of January, which is nominally observed as the day when the Indian state performs its show of strength on New Delhi’s Rajpath has now been liberated by many of Delhi’s citizens groups as an occasion for us to turn away from the spectacle of the state and walk towards a liberated future. This is how the Republic gets Reclaimed on 26th January in Delhi.
37 Different organizations and groups and many individuals (see the end of the post for a listing) participated in the march, which began at the Barakhama Road-Tolstoy Marg Crossing and ended with a public meeting at Jantar Mantar.
The slogans and signs were a combination of new and familiar chants – the by now favourite – ‘Hum Kya Chahtey ? Azadi !’ (What do we want ? Freedom !) got a new twist when it was followed by – “AAP-Vaap aur UPA aur NDA aur Khap se bhi, Baap se bhi, Azadi.” (freedom from AAP and the rest, Freedom from UPA and NDA, from Khap Panchayats and Patriarchs)
There was also – “Kaun sa Kanoon Sabse Badtar? Teen Sau Satattar, Teen Sau Satattar !” – (Which Law is the Worst of All ? 377, 377 ! – the section of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes Homosexuality) and “Azadi Ka Matlab Kya, Bekhauf Aurat, Azad Insan” (Freedom Means Fearless Women and Liberated Human Beings)
The Azadi slogans often went as follows – Kashmiri Mangey, Azadi. Lesbians Mangey, Azadi. Hijrey bhi Mangey, Azadi. Aur Khirki mein bhi Azadi. African mangey Azadi. Aur North East Mein Azadi. Chattisgarh Mein Azadi. Aur Haryana mein bhi Azadi. Mazdoor Mangey Azadi. Gujrat Mein bhi Azadi. Aur Raat Mein bhi Azadi. Pyaar karne ki Azadi aur Jeene ki bhi Azadi. (Kashmiris, Lesbians, Transgender People want Freedom. Freedom in Khirki Village, Freedom for Africans, Freedom in the North East, Freedom in Cchattisgarh, Freedom in Haryana. Workers Want Freedom. Freedom in Gujarat. Freedom in the Night. Freedom to Love. Freedom to Live.)
There was an enthusiastic round of slogans against Narendra Modi, against the UPA government, and against Delhi’s racist law minister Somnath Bharti. There was poetry, dastangoi, song, rap and performance. There was a great deal of laughter and the perfect sunshine of Delhi’s late January.
Here is a playlist of 14 videos of the march and the public meeting, and of statements and performances made by different people at the public meeting. The playlist features short statements by Gautam Bhan, Kavita Krishnan, Arundhati Roy, poetry (addressed to Delhi’s racist Law Minister Somnath Bharti) by Akhil Katya, Dastan-e-Sedition by Ankit, and music by young performers.
Reclaim the Republic 2013 was organised by: Voices Against 377, AIDWA, AIPWA, AISA, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM), Anhad, Anjuman, Breakthrough, Citizen’s Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA), CREA, Delhi Queer Pride Committee, Dhanak, duqueercollective, Haq: Centre for Child Rights, Jagori, Jamia Teacher’s Solidarity Association (JTSA), JNUSU, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Must Bol, Naz Foundation (India) Trust, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), Nigah, Nirantar, Partners for Law in Development (PLD), Pension Parishad, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), PUDR, Prism, Saheli, Sama, SAMARTHYAM National Centre for Accessible Environments, Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI), Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, Women With Disabilities India Network, Youth Ki Awaaz, The YP Foundation and many individuals from diverse movements