Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Text Size:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the people, and the Word was azadi.

Not too long ago – 70 years is not long for a 5,000-year civilisation – azadi was a rallying cry of an unfree Mother India. Today, it is the desperate plea of her children. Whether it is Kanhaiya Kumar or Kamla Bhasin or Mehak Mirza Prabhu, azadi is now a regime-threatening slogan in the era of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

They can say they want azadi from Hindutva, casteism, capitalism, but all that the BJP lovers will hear is seditious “Jinnah wali azadi”. Umar Khalid’s chants are spliced and edited in the BJP IT cell factory and made into “Hinduon se azadi”.

But the azadi Indians want is completely different.

जातिवाद से आज़ादी
मनुवाद से आज़ादी
सामंतवाद से आज़ादी
पूंजीवाद से आज़ादी

 भेदभाव से आज़ादी
नफ़रतहिंसा से आज़ादी
पितृसत्ता से आज़ादी

Freedom from casteism
Freedom from Manusmriti
Freedom from feudalism
Freedom from capitalism

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Freedom from discrimination
Freedom from hate and violence
Freedom from patriarchy


Also read: Why students in Pakistan, like in JNU, are raising azadi slogans


Azadi is a Fundamental Right

Now, asking for azadi is apparently anti-India and anti-national. And the Modi government sees it as the war cry by ‘urban Naxals’ and the ‘tukde tukde gang’. The word must not be heard in New India, according to them.

That’s why the Delhi Police is planning to act against the student who held up a ‘Free Kashmir’ poster in St Stephen’s. The Mumbai Police has already filed an FIR against Mehak Mirza Prabhu who also held up such a poster.

No arrests yet of the masked goons who attacked JNU students though.

Anyone with half a grey cell in their brain would know that people are not asking for azadi from India but in India. Today’s India is a battle between fake news and truth, which is often bullied into silence. And people are demanding azadi from this bullying.

Azadi means freedom. One of the Fundamental Rights in the Constitution of India is the right to freedom. It includes, among other things, freedom of speech and expression as well as the freedom to assemble peacefully. It is this Fundamental Right of azadi that people are using during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens protests.

The protests have stunned the nation and the Modi government with its vigour. More so because India is reverberating with the demand for azadi now. Many believe that India is plummeting towards becoming a theocratic autocracy, where the essence of India – secularism – is being snuffed out. All in the name of religion. Azadi is an obvious demand.


Also read: Modi’s India unhappy with protesters singing Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge. Zia’s Pakistan was too


We built India on azadi

Indians have been asking for azadi since the British Raj. The British colonised India and drained it in two significant ways – economically, and by taking the Indian voice away and turning them into second-class citizens in their own land. Nationalists of the time laid their lives for India’s azadi. Nationalists of today can’t bear to hear the word.

It is a word that then became something only heard in Kashmir and was branded as the demand of separatists who did not want Kashmir to be a part of India.

But then a young Kanhaiya Kumar in 2016 used the word ‘azadi’ in Jawaharlal Nehru University and all hell broke loose. Charged with sedition for raising ‘anti-India’ slogans, which included the word azadi, Kanhaiya clarified after being released on bail that he did not want azadi from India but within India.

It clicked. People got what azadi meant now for India. It almost had cult value. The movie Gully Boy starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt dedicated an entire rap song to Azadi. People eventually began to understand the larger, non-Kashmir-related demand of azadi. The Congress even fought the 2019 Lok Sabha election with this song in one of its campaign videos.

Now, the anti-CAA-NRC protests have given a new lease of life to the word azadi.


Also read: Modi-Shah’s BJP govt has failed India’s youth and is now stuck fighting them


A new azadi

The azadi that Indians are asking for today is much like the one Indians asked for before Independence. Only this time, the fight is not against foreigners, but an ideology.

Muslims are being made to feel socially inferior and minorities relegated to the margins again. Dalits, women, queer people and the poor have been oppressed for centuries. But Narendra Modi and Amit Shah seem set on the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. Which is why azadi is being demanded within the boundaries of India where old, dogmatic and dated concepts of race and religion are being used as criteria for citizenship.

People want an India where they can live without the fear of being judged and ostracised. No one wants to be asked if they’re eating beef or pork or paneer. No one wants to be told what to wear or be marked by their clothes. No one wants to be told to which temple and mosque they can or cannot go. No one wants to lose a job because of their caste or sexuality.

That’s the new India we want.

India was built on azadi, there is no India without it. We must demand it without fear.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

34 Comments Share Your Views

34 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t expect a better article by a typical Muslim. I am a Muslim and I still love Modi, Shah, Bjp and Rss. They are better than the thief Congress and leftists and terrorists.

  2. Every Indian understands meaning of Azadi and including the government, parties both in power and opposition. Every Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh will also agree with this. However, the author who is a muslim very conveniently wants to erase from this article and minds of the readers that in JNU, the issue was with getting together on the day of Afzal Gurus hanging which was deliberately preplanned. Secondly, why does this author not want to mention slogans raised such as , “Afzal hum sharminda hai, tere qatil zinda hai. Bharat tere tukde honge Inshah Allah Inshah Allah, Bharat teri barbadi tak Jung chalegi jung chalegi. Don’t blame ANY IT cell. There is enough video available that these slogans were raised. Agreed Kanhaiya and Khalid may or may not have uttered these slogans. But they were uttered at a gathering organised by them which gives enough evidence of them giving a freehand to anti national sentiments in the name of free speech. Have some shame and do not misguide people in the name of being a journalist. In the day of Social Media, journalists and political parties and leaders have a very thin rope to walk on. The moment you will falter, you will be fully exposed. #AzadiFromIntellectuals #AzadiFromAntinationals #AzadiFromHinduHaters

    • even ignoring the rest of the rant, are your arguments about supporting Afzal Guru not a bit dated? in light of what one may term the Davinder-Singh-affaire?

  3. It seems to me that most of the comments here are written by people who want to divide – not unite. Muslim bashing, congress bashing, commie bashing and Muslim baiting – all orchestrated from the same script. Look guys, I understand that you prefer to earn your bread in the BJP-IT-cell rather than sell pakoda or be unemployed, but still, think of how you can be subversive and pay back your exploitative master!

    • Not everyone was converted in the name of free rice. There are enough vitamins, nutrients in food besides what you have only eaten that your brain is just fixed upon. Your frustration level will be at a new high in 2024 again. Hum dekhenge.

  4. For Modi haters AZADI means freedom to spread ANARCHY and freedom of speech means abusing everybody who doesn’t agree with Modi haters. This author is no different from anti nationals. If Indians needs azadi, it’s from these from these anarchists and arsonists who chants azadi mindlessly.

  5. THESE PROTESTS HAVE NOT STUNNED THE NATION
    Rather they have solidified the BJP core voters, over two thirds of all Hindus that matter, the upper caste Hindu is either rabidly communal, or broadly agrees to all the racist tropes regarding Muslims. These Hindus ‘that matters do not approve of the Muslim protests and will continue vote for Modi next time around. These protest might have saved Modi from the deteriorating economy by providing a diversion.
    Take for example the Shaheen bagh Protests.
    This protest is allowed to continue because its pi$$ing of a lot of the inhabitants of Delhi due to the traffic problem it’s causing. The anti CAA protests nation wide are likewise pi$$ing off the silent Hindu majority.
    If Muslims want to be treated as equally citizens they will have to fight for these rights which will not be given to them. Easily.
    The whole RSS/Savakar ideology is based on polarisation and demonising of Muslim to garner the vote. These protests are of a benefit to the BJP
    But the long term the CAA agitation it’s an effective catalyst for Muslims to come together. They are emboldened and this will only grow gradually into a full scale insurgency.
    The final struggle might be fought by the 180 million Muslims in India with much violence and loss of life, the genie is out of the bottle, INDIA is heading for distressing times. This moment has arrived,
    We finally are approaching the end result of three generations of hate and poison by the RSS, it will soon be in the DNA of every Muslim to resist.

    • It already is, brother. It already is.

      Muslims will be dying by the truckload in the Modi Holocaust, and the world will turn a blind eye. Guaranteed.

      • nothing happens in India, Muslim grew from 8% in 1947 to 23%, whereas in Pakistan you Islamist forced and converted 28% Hindus to like 1%, so, please.

    • Please do. That is an insurgency we’d be happy to fight. That is an insurgency with which we can silence all the sikoolar mobsters. Hum Dekhenge

    • So says a bigot. Pakistan was created by bigots like Jinnah and followed by bigots like you. You want India to have a civil war, nothing like that will happen. Muslim consolidation is bad..It was there for 70 years.Start voting like Indians and there will not be an issue..continue voting like muslims and there will be consolidation. Stop thinking muslim, muslim..start thinking human, and Indian.

  6. As you stated is clear cut indication that a group of media & buddhibhrust people are supporting tukde tukde gang . Action must be taken against antinational elements whoever it is.

    Sorry this is negative story writing & against
    Indian public .

    • The actual tukade tukade duo is trying to devide (chief devider) mind of India for their very very narrow minded and dirty gains. Peoepleof India wants aazadi from the tyranny of this tukade tukade tukade gang and from the Impulsive leader’s (demone(isation) tization) Impulsive actions.

  7. What about Aazadi from Quran and Bible words which calls for hatred against other religions. What about Aazadi from Middle East based foreign culture.

      • You aren’t getting it in Bharat which was born from Mahabharat. The showdown which Savarkar, Gowalkar & AMbedkar predicted is inevitable. Bring it on.

      • we need azadi from dimwit bigots like you and Modi will ensure that will happen. Stop thinking muslim and start thinking Indian else you will see a more consolidated Hindu vote than ever before. Hinduism is inclusive, dont test its boundaries with your divisive , tribal thoughts.

  8. Kanhaiya’s Azadi also meant freedom from corruption, nepotism, arrogance which Congress represents. The author may have understood what Kanhaiya meant but not what the people of India understood. They just chose the better of 2 evils. That is why Modi won.
    In 2007, it took standing in a long queue in sweltering heat for 7 hrs and travel to Hyderabad to get my passport, the whole process taking 5 months and by bribing local police and getting recommendation letters to expedite the process.
    In 2017, my passport expired and I was hesitant to apply for renewal. I finally took up the courage on 21st Nov,2019, got appointment for 19th Dec,2019, finished the process in 2 hours without harassment or bribery or recommendations, finished police verification on 9th January, 2020 and got my new passport by 11th January, 2020.
    This is a real life example for the author and the PRINT magazine to understand what has changed for the common man in India. I am an atheist & a rationalist and a physician and not hold loyalty to any political ideology, only to rationalism.

    • Dr Sahab, let me tell you a couple of stories. I applied for a passport in 1991 (PM Chandrasekhar) paid money to agent and got it done in 2 months., Next renewal in 2001 (PM Vajpayee), paid no money, got police verification done after going 3 times to police station and once to CID headquarters, whole process took 8 months, did not pay any bribe. Next renewal 2011, PM Singh) got done by filling appropriate forms, no police verification this time, took 45 days. Next renewal 2017 (needed biometrics, PM Modi) application and interview, needed to take one day casual leave, police verification, needed 2 hours and many many documents like ration card, bank statements, letter from housing society, needed 1/2 day CL, passport had to be collected from post office since post master refused to hand it over to my mother or wife inspite of providing authority letter, another 1/2 day CL, no bribe paid anywhere.
      Story 2 – had to make DD to pay 2500 to medical council in 2008 (PM Singh) went to a nearby bank, paid cash and got DD made. – whole process took 20 mins. Had to make another DD to pay 3000 to another medical council in 2019 (PM Modi) No national bank ready to make DD unless one is ready to open account in said bank.
      These are also real life examples. Anecdotal evidence is hardly any evidence – as a doctor you must know that. If you are really rational, as you claim then you must introspect whether bigotry is masquerading as rationality.
      P.S. This also gives an idea as to what maybe causing difficulty for genuine people to get any business running in the current climate.

      • My dear brother you gave an apt response to Dr. Mahesh. I do not believe that he is an atheist but a hard hindutua one. All government except the present tyrant one who is least concerned about the common man had compassion in all their policies. The present one has no vision except manusmriti, they have contempt for the suffering and downtrodden, their all sympathies are with ambani and adani and loot the poor to fill the pockets of the adanis. Their impulsive policies had eroded all the state wealth and now deliberately coercing and looting all psus , even RBI for more and more dividends and then selling the nation’s companies.

        If this government continue another 5 years our great nation will be the poorest among the poor in the world.

    • It wasn’t because of congress of Bjp eunuchs that your passport was renewed quickly.

      It was because the young, educated sector of India has had enough. Of both.

      And when the educated want something, they get it. #Azadi

      • Still getting your assessee serviced by your husband along with his other 3 wives? Demand #Azadi from polygamy. It is must. This is 21st Century and the world is over populated with desert cult, pseudo peaceful.

    • What the heck is a kashmiri pundit?

      Kashmiris are all Muslim. That’s it. There are no “pundit onedit misfit”. All Indians are in fact born Muslim. Their parents make them Hindu or whatever.

  9. What about various laws? These people demanding Azadi will ask further not to impose any law on them like traffic laws. Basically, Muslim wants that they should be allowed to practice their religion in orthodox way and Hindus should only be liberal. In India, the problem is that there is too much Azadi due to corruption and political patronage.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here