Instruments of India’s Modern-Day Revolution: Tambourines, Songs, And Smartphones

How tambourines, sloganeering, patriotic songs and social media are shaping dissent in the country.

On the evening of January 24, I left alone from my office located in Okhla Phase III, as my colleague was told to stay longer to finish his work. I prefer to walk ,both in the morning as well in the evening. As I was about to cross the foot-over bridge, which connects the Okhla NSIC metro station with the other side of the road, I saw the tail of a long queue of people, males only, wiggling slowly into the station.

No sooner did I join the queue did I withdraw and decided to walk to my home in Jamia Nagar. It was after long that I embarked on such a walk, despite knowing the perils of crisscrossing through heavy traffic and the fear of being mugged.

This time, I used the traffic noise to my advantage and played several characters, all a part of me. I allowed my heart to do all the talking while I was trying to pass, first, the fly-over and second, the flat portion of the remaining road, safely. I broke into an emotional soliloquy, addressing no one but myself while the vehicles whizzed by me.

I reminded myself of the love of my family, how they supported me through thick and thin, and why I was not able to be someone I always dreamed of, someone who was there for people and be able to help them. I was criticising myself and, in fact, used strong language, and kept walking. I wanted to cry but found that I had hardened from the inside.

The traffic nearly came to a halt as I reached Jamia Millia Islamia university because of some ongoing construction in the middle of the road. However, amid repeated honking and running engine noise, I heard a song blaring on the left side of the road which was sealed off.

A host of placards and posters at Jamia. (Photo: Khurshid Alam/Facebook)

There were children and women sitting in cold in front of a banner that had on it, in boldface, written: WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA.

Some distance ahead, I finally found out where the song was coming from. It was a big loudspeaker surrounded by a group of youth. The song was Mera Rang De Basanti Chola from the movie 23rd March 1931: Shaheed.  A brief research online revealed that the song was penned down by Pandit Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’ along with Ashfaqullah Khan, Thakur Roshan Singh, Sachindra Nath Bakshi, Ram Krishna Khatri, and rest of the nineteen freedom fighters in Lucknow Central Jail’s Barrack number 11, in 1927.

A short distance ahead, a knot of children were chanting on a microphone, “hum leke rahenge…Hai hakk humara… Aazaadi” (We will for sure get our freedom. It is our right). Then, another group of people, both women and men, and some children, on the other side of the road were singing, using a couple of tambourines and clapping their hands. It was some other patriotic song. While this was going on, I stopped for a while but then decided to leave as some of the youth were probably live-streaming it.

I left behind the protest sites, boarded an e-rickshaw and tried to imagine what a modern-day revolution looked like. All that came to my mind was gatherings of young people – women and children especially – tambourines, patriotic songs and sloganeering, night-and-day, and smartphones and social media.

How much of an impact would all this have? Only time will tell.

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