What is ‘Azaadi’?

Posted by Anica Bushra in Society
February 25, 2017

As I sit on the college grounds, watching a street-play by the theatrical society of the university, I see a strong passion not just for theatre, but also for nationalism. Out of five performances, four of them are on the theme of azaadi (freedom).

I see rage, anger, humour, hope and satire on the current political scenario; the ‘intellectually handicapped’, who are yet to understand the term azaadi despite academic sessions, lectures and discussions, are mocked with chants and expressions. But it’s okay as a few, including myself, are slow learners – aren’t we?

Meanwhile, there are protests happening a few kilometres away because some very ‘helpless students’ (who weren’t ‘students’ at all) were still grappling with the terms ‘azaadi’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘anti-nationalism’.

“Lathi-paththar, khoon nahi, vaad-vivaad ki azaadi!  (I don’t want violence, but freedom – freedom to express and to debate, for it is my fundamental right!)”.

Umar Khalid speech

I used to believe that healthy discussions are the very essence of an ‘ideal university’ – and the moment this atmosphere of free-thinking and curiosity is attacked, knowledge and learning get banished. There can be no limits to thinking. If one ideology is seen as a threat to the other ideology, then the latter is a weak one and is in dire need of revival. Discussions will make issues crystal-clear – not the other way round. Discussions and debates are the answers – not stone-pelting and fear mongering.

People say that there should be limits to the freedom of speech and that it should not be allowed to such extents that it becomes a case of ‘defamation’ against the country. However, we also need to understand that there is a big difference between ‘defamation’ and ‘criticism’. While we see clear, underlying motives of change, betterment and improvement in ‘criticising’ – in ‘defamation’, it is not so. While ‘defaming’, the motive is solely to ridicule and mock. So one cannot talk of ‘defamation’ while speaking of the nation. The ways of criticism are also highly subjective and varied. While you may express your dissent through writing, I may do the same by shouting. And criticising is not ‘anti-nationalism’!

Sadly, nowadays, the popular idea is that if you are not satisfied with the current system and are sceptical about the government – if you are not sync with the fascist ideology – you are an ‘anti-national’. Hence, in this scenario you will be an ‘anti-national’ if you are not a Sangh supporter. A criminal will not be a ‘criminal’ until the court proves that person to be guilty of the crime. A person is not a criminal till his crime is proven in court. Mere allegations and accusations will not make that person a criminal in the eyes of the law. Therefore, the ruckus created by a students’ political party on the talk that was supposed to be given by Umar Khalid is meaningless. Because, Khalid has not been proven guilty by the court and no chargesheet was filed.

Who is an ‘anti-national’ then, if not the sceptics? And what is nationalism?

Just shouting “I feel proud to be an Indian” is not going to make anyone a ‘nationalist’. Introspecting and internalising the feeling of ‘patriotism’ is essential. I believe, ‘patriotism’ is your concern about the welfare of your country – when you want to ensure that the constitutional principles are being upheld and the basic structure of the Constitution is not being jeopardised.

“… to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic… to secure to its citizens Justice, Liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship), Equality and Fraternity”, states the Preamble of our Constitution. An ‘anti-national’, then, would be someone who disregards these basic principles or does not believe in the Constitution at all. When you discuss and debate because you are genuinely concerned for your country, you are more ‘nationalistic’ and ‘patriotic’ than you have ever been!

We also need to understand that the term azaadi has undergone a significant expansion in these years to include its various facets – freedom from casteism, from patriarchy, from unemployment and the freedom of speech and expression. Undoubtedly our freedom fighters set out to achieve azaadi from an oppressive regime of colonialists during an era when we had none of the freedoms discussed previously.

So, it is up to you, my rational friend, to judge that whether merely the absence of an oppressive regime has resulted in us achieving azaadi in its entirety, or not. If your answer is yes, then everything is fine. If not, then our democracy is at stake and in dire need of protection.

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