‘Hum kya chahte? Azaadi!’ Story of slogan raised by JNU’s Kanhaiya

The “Azaadi” chant by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, which has become the heartbeat of a section of the youth today, is not a gift from Kashmir separatists, as is being assumed.
Interestingly, the chant originated as a feminist number against patriarchy. It was evolved and popularised by well-known feminist Kamla Bhasin in the women’s movement all over south Asia.(HT Photo)
Interestingly, the chant originated as a feminist number against patriarchy. It was evolved and popularised by well-known feminist Kamla Bhasin in the women’s movement all over south Asia.(HT Photo)
Updated on Mar 05, 2016 05:17 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | ByNirupama Dutt, Chandigarh

The “Azaadi” chant by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, which has become the heartbeat of a section of the youth today, is not a gift from Kashmir separatists, as is being assumed.

Interestingly, the chant originated as a feminist number against patriarchy. It was evolved and popularised by well-known feminist Kamla Bhasin in the women’s movement all over south Asia.

An early memory of dancing and chanting to the catchy beat of the “Azaadi” number dates back to 1991, at the Women’s Studies Conference in Kolkata’s Jadavpur University. A vibrant and charismatic Bhasin, in her early forties, chanted it with a little drum in hand and women surrounded her, throwing their fists in the air. My five-year-old daughter, who had accompanied me there once, caught on the song and chanted it throughout her childhood.

Also read: Jail changed traitor Kanhaiya, says ABVP leader at ‘Truth of JNU’ meet

15-yr-old girl from Ludhiana challenges Kanhaiya for debate

The original words coined by Bhasin were “Meri behane maange Azaadi, meri bachhi maange Azaadi, naari ka naara Azaadi... (My sisters want freedom, my daughter wants freedom, every woman’s slogan is freedom)”. Incidentally, a video of Bhasin reciting the “Azaadi” poem at a campaign organized by V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women, is available on YouTube.

She recited it again in New Delhi’s Connaught Place to cheering crowds as part of the “One Billion Rising” campaign to protest violence against women on February 14.

Going on 70 with her hair all white now, her youthful call to freedom from the ills of society is still as pulsating as ever.

In a telephonic interview, Bhasin starts reciting some of it: “From patriarchy: Azaadi; from all the hierarchy: Azaadi; from endless violence: Azaadi; from helpless silence: Azaadi.”

Recalling the roots of the poem, she says, “I had learnt the slogan of “Meri behane maange Azaadi” from Pakistani feminists and later improvised the words. The words would change many times depending on what we were protesting against, discrimination on the basis of caste, injustice to tribals or violence against women.”

The chant became so popular that it reached the Left and other groups wanting freedom from injustice of any kind. Feminist activist Urvanshi Butalia, founder-publisher of Zubaan, recalls, “It was one of the most popular poems of the feminist movement. Later, it became an inspiration for other groups too. But, in our minds, it is etched as the inspirational feminist chant.”

Read: JNU row: All you need to know about Kanhaiya’s sedition charge

It is interesting to note here that the Left, which initially negated the women’s movement, took much from the song, including the freedom chant.

“The chant is not just for freedom from the negative aspects of society but also freedom for positive things like walking freely, talking freely, dancing madly, singling loudly, for self-expression, for celebration...,” Bhasin said.

Kamla has been active in the sub-continent’s women’s movement since 1970 and is now associated with feminist groups “Jagori” and “Sangat”. Her contribution has been writing marching songs for women on popular Punjabi folk tunes like “Todh todh ke bandhano ko dekho behane aati hain (Breaking shackles, see the sisters come out)” and “Dariya ki kasam, maujon ki kasam, yeh taana-baana badlega (I swear by the river, I swear by the waves, things will have to change)”.

She divides her time between Delhi and Sidhbarhi, near Dharamshala in Himachal, working with urban and rural women.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The one-time pet registration fee in Mohali is <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>100 and an annual fee of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>100 has also to be paid thereafter. (HT Photo)

    Come June 1, non-registration of pet dogs in Mohali to invite 1,000 fine

    Over six months after launching pet dog registrations last year, the Mohali Municipal Corporation has decided to challan pet dog owners who have still not come forward for registration from June 1. While there are an estimated 20,000 pet dogs in the city, only 78 people have gotten them registered since the process began on November 16, 2021. These need to be submitted with the registration form at: http://petlicense.punjab.gov.in:8080/pet-license/citizen-form.

  • The court will pronounce the sentence against former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala on May 26.

    Former Haryana CM Chautala convicted in disproportionate assets case

    A special CBI court in New Delhi on Saturday held former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, 87, guilty of amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income in a 16-year-old case. In the present case, special CBI judge Vikas Dhull in a judgment announced in the open court stated that Chautala is convicted for the offence under Section 13(1) (e) read with 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988.

  • A special operations group of the excise department and Punjab Police foiled two attempts to smuggle liquor into Punjab from Chandigarh over the last two days. (Representative Image/HT File)

    Special drive launched: 2 liquor smuggling bids foiled in Punjab

    A special operations group of the excise department and Punjab Police foiled two attempts to smuggle liquor into Punjab from Chandigarh over the last two days, officials said on Saturday. In the first case, Sukhdev Singh of Koom Kalan village, was arrested with 115 liquor cases, comprising 1,380 bottles, meant for sale only in Chandigarh near Khamanon.

  • Two youngsters drowned in Beas river near Abdullapur village on Saturday. The victims were identified as Vir Singh, 21 and Shiv Singh, 19. (Representative Image/HT File)

    Two youngsters drown in Beas

    Two youngsters drowned in Beas river near Abdullapur village on Saturday. The victims were identified as Vir Singh, 21 and Shiv Singh, 19. “They had gone to take a dip in the river with their friends,” said their families. HTC Kisan Federation holds state convention Ludhiana The All-India Kisan Federation held a state-level convention at Punjabi Bhawan here on Saturday. Delegates from Patiala, Mohali, Ropar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Chandigarh and Ludhiana attended the convention.

  • Those found infected with Covid in Chandigarh are residents of Sectors 2, 10, 16, 19, 21, 46, 38 (West) and Dhanas. (HT File)

    With 25 new cases, Chandigarh tricity area’s active Covid count touches 145

    The tricity recorded 25 fresh Covid-19 cases on Saturday. Chandigarh's cases dipped from 18 to 10 in the past 24 hours, while Mohali cases dropped from 11 to 6. In Panchkula, the cases saw a slight rise with seven cases coming to fore. The day before, it had nine cases. The active case count in tricity is now 145. This includes 67 positive patients in Chandigarh, 49 in Mohali and 29 in Panchkula.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, May 22, 2022