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