The emerging new discourses in India are overwhelmingly adhered with the dynamic imaginations of freedom, in which the slogan of Azaadi often thrives young hearts into the verge of protest and political activism. While contemplating on the scope and end of freedom we possess, we must analyze the many meanings of Azaadi/ Freedom in the context of present day scenario. The way we perceive Azaadi is ultimately related to the freedom we are accessing without any constraints. But even after 70 years of formal independence from the shackles of British imperial regime, we still want to reassess the extent of our Azaadi in various contextual realities. Here we seek your attention to a vibrant sphere of debates on the walls of Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has been nourished by an active involvement of the people from the margins.
The slogan of Azaadi has come up on the forefront of protest marches in recent times. The wide popular usage and embracement of these Azaadi slogans can be traced to the people’s aspirations of freedom still alive and awaken even after a long era of formal independence. The very term represents multiple meanings in the present time, while thanks to its various contextual application and capability of all embracing vigour. The freedom as a trait of social and political existence of an individual has been considered as one of the inseparable right itself. Freedom has been made the rallying point of mass movements throughout the ages by its overwhelming power to motivate people in opposition to injustice and tyranny. The people made huge efforts to regain their bygone freedom from oppressors and to restore it by any means necessary. The Postcolonial nation states have emerged after a long era of struggles for independence and liberty under imperialist regimes. But still the remnants of colonialism have been shattering the dreams of thousands living under occupation and invasion by nation states in the name of national security and market economy. The social scenario of the same postcolonial saga sustains the very modes of oppression in same wave length to gain its dynamic character adopted from its ancestors. The louder outcries for freedom have been rising from different corners of our country, which now put a question mark on the concept of independence and the extent of our freedom.
The foremost slogans of Azaadi come up from the northern part of country, which had been a space for rivalry between the people and nation states. On a wider scale of analysis, still existing prominent conflict zones of colonial past are Palestine-Israel Conflict, Kurdish Conflict and Kashmir conflict. The role of nation states in these conflicts is obvious while declaring the striving people as terrorists and intruders. The suppression methods by the hand of nation state have much legitimacy to use any kinds of lethal weapons on its own citizens or declared terrorists. Meanwhile any kinds of retaliation shall invite more oppression with the legal consent of whole nation state. The major portion of Kashmiri population needs to attain freedom for self-determination and their democratic rights. The on-going repression under the draconian law of Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Act of 1990, over native population by various means violating the basic human rights of the citizens including curfews, fake encounters, murders, torture, rape, pellet gun and lethal weapon resulted in mass graves, half widows, injuries and blindness. Every small kid is suffering from some kind of oppressive methods in the name of national security and integrity. But the deafening silence of ruling regime while addressing this grave issue hence minimizes the value of human lives to the numerical numbers of causalities.
In the recent times, we are fortunate to hear some new kinds of sloganeering which represent liberation and self-respect of the oppressed in our country. The Asmitha Rally from Ahmedabad to Una in Gujarat declares some new meanings of Azaadi, which itself proclaims the rally as Azaadi Kooch. Dalits and Muslims in Gujarat come up together to liberate themselves from long ruling Hindutva Brahmanical conscience. The protest emerged with an incident in which four Dalits were brutally thrashed up in Una, while lifting carcasses of cows by the self-proclaimed Savarna Gau-Rakshaks. It was the Muslims who were the easy prey of Savarna groups then in Gujarat genocide of 2002, now the lot turned up to the Dalits who are the victims of systematic tyrannies of casteism. Now they have rallied united under the banner of Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti and backed by the Muslim religious body Jamiat-e-Ulama-Hind from August 5 till August 15. This kind of unity of the oppressed must prevail in these times of tyrannical fascist regime.
The most dangerous term we hardly dare to use now is “freedom of expression”. The series of killings occurring in the country targeting people, who want to express their freedom to think, to eat, to wear, to work, etc. The emerging trends of Cultural dominance over people make them scared of vigilantism, who are working with the full support of ruling regime. The murders of Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi are apparently point out the drastic change in the right wing radicalism. The Cow vigilant parties are roaming around the country, reaching out even to our kitchens and trying to restrain us what we shall eat or not. The tragic lynching of Muhammad Akhlaq in Dadri and two Muslim youths in Jharkhand in the name of beef are evident in the limits of our freedom to eat under this fascist regime. The continuing suppression of freedom of expression has now entered the academic spaces, where a series of crackdown over universities is being reported from FTTI, IIT Madras, UoH, JNU, JU, AMU, JMI etc. Meanwhile these spaces are fed up with various measures of surveillance over students’ political expressions.
The new developments occurring in the Northeast state of Manipur give some glimpses of a paradigm shift. While the Iron lady of Manipur Irom Chanu Sharmila stops her 16 year long hunger strike on 9th August 2016, the atrocities in the name of Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Act still continue with full vigour. The decision taken up by Irom Sharmila points out the incapability of our state to assure the secure and safe survival of its own citizens. Irom Sharmila represents thousands of lives who have been sacrificed in the name of state security and hundreds of women who have been raped and tortured by the same “security forces”. This long 16 years of hunger strike would be an active inspiration for the striving people all over the world. Her experience exposed the inhuman character of political systems, which are obsessed with weapons more than its own citizen’s rights.
The plight of Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Act is mostly visible on the Muslims of our country, who have been represented by the collective conscience as the sole agents of anti-nationalism. The Muslims are easy prey of our investigative agencies after every blast and encounter, whenever some overwhelming outcries for the punishment of culprits rose up in the air. This resulted in the large scale arrest and repression of Muslim youths; most of them are the under-trials, unaware of what they might have done as crimes. In the long run of our judicial systems, some of them might be released with a clear chit of innocence, but the majority have been under imprisonment without any appropriate legal accessibilities. But at the same time, the real culprits are scout free, embraced by the people in power with full licence for their second innings. This paradox of justice in our country must be questioned by the active conscience of people.
While the suppression of Adivasis of Bastar in Chhattisgarh in the name of “Maoist Threat”, continues with full scale security enforcement, the Tribal activist Soni Sori comes up with a march named as “Tiranga Yatra” from Dantewada to Gompad. It will be concluded on August 15 by hoisting an Indian flag at Gompad. Soni Sori, who is the leader of Aam Admi Party has suffered various means of oppression by the security forces including acid attack, rape and threat for life. The neo-liberal policies of ruling governments compel the indigenous population to defend their rights and lands from the multi-national corporates, who are under strict surveillance of state machineries. The critical voices against the state suppression of tribal people is mostly silenced under the iron-fist of law enforcement agencies. Soni Sori still strives for their rights overshadowed by both the state and the Maoists.
Let the walls speak aloud about our striving conscience of Azaadi, Let the questions arise and Let the people say their dreams of freedom. Lastly let me put an incredible message of Ustad Abdul Nasar Maudani -the rallying figure of Dalit Muslim Adivasi Unity in Kerala- at Chengara Adivasi protest of 2008:
“Freedom has not been achieved so far; to those cannot give proper education to their children, to Dalits and enslaved people of this country, to those innocent people- who were massacred at Bhiwandi, Assam, Gujarat, Jamshedpur, Guwahati, Varanasi, Ayodhya- to the minority communities, to the dispossessed and deprived, to those landless and poor, to those who have no land to bury their dead …When the 50th anniversary of Indian independence day of “Masters” is being celebrated, I have declared that the Subalterns of this country have not yet attained independence…”