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.

Continue reading The Constitution as the ‘Social Contract’ of Modern India

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.

Continue reading Azadi in the Lexicon of the Aam Admi: Gowhar Fazili

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

Would the secession of South Sudan be good for Africa?

On January 6th, it is almost certain that a referendum in South Sudan will lead to a vote to secede from the rest of the country, thus paving the way to the formal inauguration of Africa’s 54th sovereign state. The vote comes after many years of discord between Sudan’s Arab-and-Muslim north and its black, animist and Christian south, and civil war in which almost 2m have died. Thus, divorce seems the only option in Sudan’s case. However, many in Africa, including the African Union, which has long inveighed in principle against secessionist tendencies in Africa, worry that it could set a trend that encourages other self-determination movements on the continent, potentially causing instability and worse. Others argue that the right of all peoples to self-determination must be allowed to hold good. In these terms, would the secession of South Sudan be good for Africa?

Well, you can cast your vote here.

See also: Celebrations across south as millions flock to polling stations.

The Logical Urges of Sedition

[An edited version of this article by me has appeared in the November-December 2010 issue of Conveyor, a magazine published from Srinagar.]

On 22 October 2010, there was a public seminar in Delhi, titled “Azadi: The Only Way”. I did not plan to attend it as I had important work that day. However, a day before the event, it was announced that the keynote speaker would be none other than Syed Ali Shah Geelani. How could one not go to hear what the man of the moment had to say?

I reached late, when two speakers had already spoken, Kashmiri Pandits had already created a scene, even getting into a physical fight with some Kashmiri Muslims. As I entered the precincts of the Little Theatre Group auditorium, I met Delhi University student Suvaid Yaseen who showed me a small cut in his hand, caused by the fisticuffs with the Pandits. Some of the Pandits had been taken away by the Delhi Police and detained for a few hours, many others still inside the auditorium. The auditorium was full of cries of “Hum kya chahtay? Azadi!” To hear that in central Delhi rather than Srinagar’s Lal Chowk is a little incredible. But it had happened before, on 7 August, at Jantar Mantar, the only place in the capital of the world’s largest democracy where protest is allowed. At Jantar Mantar too, Pandits were being restrained by the Delhi Police. Continue reading The Logical Urges of Sedition

Kitne aadmi the? We are all seditious now

Here is a very short, utterly incomplete, hastily compiled list of people charged under Section 124 A in the last two years alone.

Our very own Shuddhabrata Sengupta figures  in this roll of honour.

(Incidentally, KK Shahina, who has guest posted with us, faces charges from the Karnataka Police under IPC 506 for intimidating witnesses. Her expose in Tehelka showed how the police case against Abdul Nasar Madani, head of the People’s Democratic Front (PDP), accused in 2008 Bengaluru blasts, was fragile and based on non-existent and false testimonies.)

There would be hundreds more, not named here, charged with sedition for “criticizing” the government, for exposing corruption and police nexus with mafias, or for expressing views that run counter to official wisdom on the “integrity” of India.

As if “integrity” is something pre-existing and eternal rather than something that has to be produced at every point. The existence of a nation is a daily plebiscite, said even historian Ernst Renan, a staunch supporter of the nation form. Not so Rabindranath Tagore, who was highly suspicious of the “fetish of nationalism”. He called the Nation nothing but the “the organization of politics and commerce” and warned that when this Nation “becomes all-powerful at the cost of the harmony of the higher social life, then it is an evil day for humanity.” (In his lectures on nationalism, published by Rupa and Co. 1994) Continue reading Kitne aadmi the? We are all seditious now

Dilemmas of ‘Right of Nations to Self Determination’: Rohini Hensman

Guest post by ROHINI HENSMAN

The hectic discussion over the Kashmir meeting in Delhi in October entitled ‘Azadi – The Only Way’ has made it urgent to revisit the debate between Lenin and Luxemburg on the right of nations to self-determination. Lenin, starting from his experience in imperialist Russia, insisted on the right of nations like the Ukraine to self-determination (in the sense of their right to form separate states), contending that denial of this right would merely strengthen Great Russian nationalism. In a colonial situation, Lenin was surely right. When a country is under foreign occupation, all sections other than a very small number of collaborators want to be free of the occupiers, even if there are sharp differences between these sections. A striking example is RAWA (the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) which, despite speaking for a section of the population which is sorely oppressed by the Taliban, and continuing to fight against it, nonetheless shares with the latter the goal of ending the occupation by US and NATO forces. In such situations, the right of an occupied nation to self-determination makes sense.

Continue reading Dilemmas of ‘Right of Nations to Self Determination’: Rohini Hensman

Whose Dishonesty? Arundhati’s or Media’s?: Mahtab Alam

Guest post by MAHTAB ALAM

‘Vicharon ki Be-imani (Dis-honesty of thought) cries the heading of the lead article of Dainik Bhaskar’s editorial page on 1st November 2010. The article is written by Venkateshan Vembu, foreign correspondent of DNA English daily, a newspaper published by the same group of publications. It was originally published on 27th October with the headline reading ‘Arundhati Roy is dangerously wrong on Kashmir’. The writer of the article claims that whatever Arundhati has said is not only dangerously wrong and beyond the tolerance level of any law-abiding citizen but, it also has the potential to arouse feelings of anger and violence among the masses. “Yeh kuch is tarah ki beimani hai, jo janmanas me krodh aur aakrosh ki bhawna upjati hai (This is a kind of dishonesty which generates feelings of anger and violence among the people”). Ironically, this turned out to be a ‘prophetic’ disclosure, as right after four days of publication of the original version in DNA, Arundhati’s house in Delhi was attacked by the writer’s ‘Janmanas’, the BJP’s women wing ‘Mahila Morcha’.

Continue reading Whose Dishonesty? Arundhati’s or Media’s?: Mahtab Alam

Minutes of the seminar on ‘Azadi: The Only Way’

(Shuddhabrata Sengupta has written eloquently his account of the day-long seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way’. The seminar was organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners. Given below are CRPP’s minutes of the seminar. You can also see, on YouTube, two short videos showing the ruckus that some Kashmiri Pandits created before Syed Ali Shah Geelani was to speak (1, 2). Also on YouTube, in two parts (1, 2), is Arundhati Roy’s speech, for which some want her booked for sedition. Those on Facebook can also see most of SAS Geelani’s speech (1, 2, 3). A small part of Geelani’s speech is on Youtube, here. Those hurling abuses at Roy and Geelani would do well to read this text, see these videos, and engage with these ideas intellectually, instead of asking for individuals to be jailed and persecuted.)

Continue reading Minutes of the seminar on ‘Azadi: The Only Way’

WikiLeaks, Azadi and Arnab Goswami: Monobina Gupta

Guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA

This Friday Dean Baquet, Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times defended his paper’s publishing of explosive information gathered by WikiLeaks, putting the US intelligence and the military establishment squarely in the dock for the Iraq war. The largest ever classified military leak in history, the WikiLeaks revelations have exposed the complicity of the US military and civil administration in whittling down the number of civilian deaths/casualties as well as ignoring hard information about the torture of US soldiers in the hands of Iraqi forces.

Baquet said that his paper worked on stories culled from nearly 4,00,0000 documents furnished by WikiLeaks as “it would any other journalistic project.” He also pointed out that it is not often that reporters get to scrutinize documents testifying to the largest US intelligence leak ever.

Continue reading WikiLeaks, Azadi and Arnab Goswami: Monobina Gupta

Oranges in Kashmir

Guest post by K

In the summer of 2008, something impossible happened. To a number of Indians, Kashmir was no longer an atoot ung, an inseparable part of the Indian body politic. That image of Kashmir treacherously manufactured by the Indian state through lies, deceit and the media, was wearing down.

The atoot ung no longer seemed atoot to many voices in India and against all odds the people of Kashmir were changing many hearts and minds in India. The loss of soldiers does not worry India as much as the change in its public opinion on Kashmir. This had to be undone, and undone fast before it spread its tentacles. The evil image of Kashmiris had to emphasized and the  non-violent protests discredited. What better than an election to do the task?

So the results will be out tomorrow, but do they matter? Continue reading Oranges in Kashmir

Freedom from each other

Arundhati Roy on the freedom struggle in Kashmir:

To expect matters to end there was of course absurd. Hadn’t anybody noticed that in Kashmir even minor protests about civic issues like water and electricity inevitably turned into demands for azadi? To threaten them with mass starvation amounted to committing political suicide.

Not surprisingly, the voice that the Government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed people have come out to reclaim their cities, their streets and mohallas. They have simply overwhelmed the heavily armed security forces by their sheer numbers, and with a remarkable display of raw courage.

Raised in a playground of army camps, checkposts and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, represent themselves. For them it is nothing short of an epiphany. They’re in full flow, not even the fear of death seems to hold them back.

And once that fear has gone, of what use is the largest or second-largest army in the world? What threat does it hold? Who should know that better than the people of India who won their independence in the way that they did? [Outlook]