TV news anchors have spent much of the last week indignantly bellowing about the audacity students at universities have shown in questioning the state. In language that mirrors the words of the jingoistic Right, anchors have asked how much longer the Indian people will 'tolerate' these apparent affronts to the nation, as if the greatest danger the country faces are those raising slogans.
Among the videos shown over and over again is one that turns out to have been doctored. This showed Jawaharlal Nehru Student Union President Kanhaiaya Kumar, who has been arrested on charges of alleged sedition, yelling 'azaadi' (freedom) with headlines like 'Kanhaiya’s ‘sedition’ exposed on tape.'
In fact, Kumar was indeed asking for azaadi, but not from the nation (as was the implication in the news coverage). Instead, he was demanding freedom from hunger, sanghwaad (RSS-ism), feudalism, capitalism, Brahminism and Manu-ism.
This recited poem from feminist activist and social scientist Kamala Bhasin uses the same motif of azaadi to remind us of the real dangers to the Indian state: patriarchy, poverty, war and riots. Bhasin delivered the poem at the One Billion Rising from South Asia event, as part of a global activist movement to end violence against women. This was held on February 14, 2013, at Parliament Street in New Delhi.
Despite having fractured her foot, Bhasin wheeled up on stage and read out her inspirational poem, in front of a charged audience that chanted 'azaadi' after every line.
Mere behene mange (Sisters demand it)
Mere bacchi mange (Children demand it)
Naari ka naara (the call of the women)
Mazdoor ka naara (the call of the worker)
Daliton ka naara (the call of the Dalits)
Adivasiyon ka naara (the call of the Adivasis)
Jungo se lenge (Freedom from the fighters)
Dango se lenge (Freedom from the rioters)
Himsa se lenge (Freedom from violence)
Apmaan se lenge (Freedom from humiliation)
Hum leke rahenge (We shall have it)
From all hierarchy
From endless violence
From helpless silence
For walking freely
For talking freely
For dancing madly
For singing loudly
For self expression
We love it madly
Come say it loudly