Tag Archives: azadi

The Constitution as the ‘Social Contract’ of Modern India



The  Constitution of India should be seen as a work-in-progress – not because it has been amended ever so often by different governments but because it has been taken over by ‘we, the people’, repeatedly, especially since the 1990s. The ‘authorized’ interpreters of the Constitution and Law are no longer its sole interpreters. The continuous battles over its interpretation in the courts of law are only one way in which meaning is contested. But from the dalits reclaiming it as “Babasaheb’s Constitution” to the pathalgadi movement  of the Jharkhand adivasis and finally as the banner of citizenship movement today, its meaning has been contested time and again in the streets and in villages.

It is customary, in most secular-nationalist and left-wing circles, to invoke the “great values of the national movement”, which is seen as synonymous with the “freedom struggle”, which in turn is reduced to the “anticolonial struggle”. On 15 August 1947, India attained Independence from colonial rule and on 26 January 1950, “we, the people of India” gave to ourselves the Constitution of India. The anticolonial struggle came to an end in August 1947 but that did not mean that all the currents that  comprised the larger “freedom struggle” – the jang-e-azadi – got their freedom. We perhaps need to make a distinction today between the “freedom struggle” (that is still ongoing) and the “anticolonial nationalist” movement.

We need to state emphatically that the “freedom struggle” of different social groups is not – and never was – reducible to the “anticolonial struggle”. There were many different strands and currents that  either functioned at a distance from mainstream nationalism , or even worked in opposition to it.

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A Conversation about the Meaning of the word ‘Azadi’ (‘Freedom’) in the Wake of Events at JNU

Signal to Noise Ratio

There has been a lot of talk about what exactly ‘Azadi’ (freedom) means, especially in the wake of Kanhaiya Kumar’s post release midnight speech at JNU on the 4th of March. So lets talk some more. No harm talking. If there is noise, there must also be a signal, somewhere.

Kanhaiya Kumar clarified in his electrifying, riveting speech that his evocation of Azadi was a call for freedom ‘in’ India, not a demand, or even an endorsement of a demand for freedom ‘from’ India.

This may come as a sigh of relief to some, – Kanhaiya , the man of the moment, proves his ‘good’ patriotic credentials, leading to an airing of the by now familiar ‘good nationalist vs. bad nationalist’ trope. And everyone on television loves a nationalist, some love a good nationalist even more.

Perhaps this was a way of dealing with a bail order that was at the same time a gag order.

[ P.S. : Since writing this last night, a more careful reading of the bail order has suggested to me that the actual terms of bail are not so bad after all. Bail is in fact granted, as far as I can see, fairly unconditionally. Kanhaiya is not asked, for instance, to step down from his position in the students’ union, nor are restrictions placed on his movement and activity. So in technically legal sense, the bail provisions need not be interpreted in a tightly restricted manner. The egregious political hortations, the references to infection, antibiotics, amputation and gangrene, which are over and above the legal instructions, are indeed terrible, but operationally, they have no executive authority backing them.]

But to say just that the text of the bail order is what shaped Kanhaiya’s midnight speech would be ungenerous, and miserly, especially in response to the palpably real passion that someone like Kanhaiya has for a better world, and for a better future for the country he lives and believes in. I have no doubt about the fact that coming as he does from the most moderate section of the Indian Left (the CPI – well known for their long term affection for the ‘national bourgeoisie’ despite the national bourgeouisie’s long term indifference/indulgence towards them), Kanhaiya is a genuine populist nationalist patriot [I have corrected ‘nationalist’ to ‘patriot’ here in response to the criticism and suggestion held out by Virat Mehta’s comment – see below in the comments section] and a democrat moulded as he says, equally by Bhagat Singh and Dr. Ambedkar. There is a lot to admire in that vision, even in partial disagreement. And while some may not necessarily share his nationalism, this does not mean that one has to treat it with contempt either. I certainly don’t.

Continue reading A Conversation about the Meaning of the word ‘Azadi’ (‘Freedom’) in the Wake of Events at JNU

If there is dancing, there will be revolution : Three New Tracks to Groove to While Modi Quakes

No Text Necessary ! Make them your phone ringtone! Friends having tried this report electrifying effects on passersby.

‘Azadi’, (‘Freedom’) featuring Kanhaiya and Friends, Courtesy DJ Dub Sharma

‘Yeh Ladai’ (‘This Struggle), Courtesy DJ MojoJojo, featuring Umar

‘Bandh Bhengey Dao’ (‘Break Down the Barriers’), Courtesy Q, OST of ‘Tasher Desh’, with a nod to the great DJ Robin T



Azadi in the Lexicon of the Aam Admi: Gowhar Fazili


During the swearing in speech at Ram Leela Maidan, the word Azadi found its place of pride on Arvind Kejriwal’s symbolic cap. ‘ Mujhe Chahiye Poori Azadi’ it said.   The word Azadi has travelled from the freedom struggle in Kashmir, to the movement against gendered violence in Delhi and is now entering the lexicon of Aam Aadmi.  The Aam Aadmi’s historic ascension to power through a referendum resonates well with the long standing demand in Kashmir seeking to let the people decide their political future directly.

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A Million March in Kashmir?: Suvaid Yaseen

Guest post by SUVAID YASEEN

A ‘March of Million’ in Egypt’s Tahrir Square picked up the momentum of the people’s movement in Egypt, and finally led to the ouster of the dictator who had ruled Egypt with an iron fist for thirty years. Hosni Mubarak, the US backed Egyptian President, fled the country on 11th of February.

In Kashmir, 11th of February is an important day. It was on this day in 1984, that Maqbool Bhat, the founding member of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a militant group that started the armed struggle for Independence of Kashmir, was hanged at Delhi’s Tihar Jail. He is remembered every year on his death anniversary, which has been a day of strike and protest since then. His remains still lie in the premises of Tihar jail in Delhi, and Kashmiris every year ask for their return. An empty grave in Srinagar’s Martyrs’ graveyard waits with Maqbool’s name on the plaque. For Kashmiris, the date of the flight of the modern Pharoah of Egypt, with Maqbool’s date of martyrdom brought a melancholic delight to this date. Continue reading A Million March in Kashmir?: Suvaid Yaseen

Sopore sisters, in death and life: Nawaz Gul Qanungo


In the May of 2006, Praveen “Five Police Station” Swami wrote in Frontline: ““Long live Pakistan,” chanted the hundreds of young men who, armed with axes and crowbars, had gathered to demolish Sabina Hamid Bulla’s home in downtown Srinagar on May 5. “We want freedom!” … Last month, residents of Srinagar complained to the police about two 30-second pornographic video clips that had been circulating through mobile phones. A 16-year old girl was then detained, who said she had been recruited by a prostitution ring run by Bulla. In an unsigned statement to the police, the girl said Bulla, to whom she is related, supplied her with drugs and cash for having sex with two State Ministers, a Border Security Force officer, 10 policemen and several well-known businessmen. … As thing stand, though, the Central Bureau of Investigation – which was, notably, given charge of the case before the protests began – has an enormous mission before it. First, it will have to persuade the girl, who was married off in April with some financial assistance from Bulla, to make a formal statement before a magistrate. Then, corroboration will have to be found to back the charges she has made – no small task, given the influence of the men who now face charges of rape.” [Frontline, May 20 – June 2, 2006.]  Continue reading Sopore sisters, in death and life: Nawaz Gul Qanungo