By Rohini Banerjee:
‘Azaadi’. If you’ve followed the news in the past few months, you would have heard of this word, and its usage, again and again. The slogan gained popular attention and media scrutiny after Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and various other students began demanding ‘azaadi’ from the State’s clampdown on freedom of speech in educational institutions, from Brahmanical supremacy (in light of Rohith Vemula’s death), and, from the various acts of state-sponsored violence and oppression in Kashmir.
In light of recent events, it’s a word that holds a lot of weight—it’s meant to challenge harmful propaganda, to agitate for a democracy where dissenting voices aren’t suppressed, and most importantly, to push for basic civil liberties which many marginalised groups are being denied. However, seeing this word misused, taken out of context, commercialised, and mocked is more than shocking and disturbing in the new Yatra.com advertisement.
In the ad, we see a young man start randomly chanting slogans of ‘azaadi’ when he’s denied a window seat on a flight. He is dressed like Kanhaiya, and even mimics his voice and tone while chanting the slogan. The ad uses this very loaded word and reduces it to the most trivial of things such as flight seats, offers, hotel bookings and whatnot. In doing this, it is essentially mocking a political student movement which has sprung out of the fundamental rights of students being jeopardised—where many of them have faced both physical and emotional violence at the hands of the police and the state.
To demean a movement like this, and to try to commercialise it and milk the rage surrounding it to sell an app is perhaps the lowest blow one can manoeuvre, not just to student politics but to the very concept of democracy. It’s okay if one wants to resort to humour to advertise something, but to mock a cause like this, which has so many sides to it, which has affected so many students and continues to affect them, is irresponsible and petty. Watch the video and judge for yourself: