‘Hum Kya Chahte? AZADI’ – The Slogan which always reverberates in Kashmir.

Abdul Azeem*

“Freedom is an idea that no tyrant will ever crush.” ~ Laurence Overmire

Sloganeering means to raise slogans. It is a way of protest or appreciation in some ways. It is raising slogans to form a protest in order to get attention or to bring change in any social phenomenon. Sloganeering comes under Social Action which is either performed by a single individual or a group of individuals who is/are committed to a particular cause. If we talk about Kashmir, the slogans of Kashmiri Youth are different from the other parts of the world. Every single Kashmiri is holding at least one slogan in his / her heart to vent out his / her emotions and feelings against the occupation and oppression from the Indian state. The feelings are articulated in the form of raising pro-freedom slogans. All the slogans of Kashmiri Youth are raised in order to show resistance to the Indian Occupation since 1947. There are many slogans in Kashmir which were changed with time, but the only unanimous slogan which remained unchanged is, ‘Hum Kya Chahte? AZADI’ (What Do We Want ? Freedom). Azadi is an Urdu word meaning Freedom in English. But according to some Historians, Azadi is an over 3,000-year-old Persian word that means freedom, liberty, liberation, and independence. This is specifically what the word means to Kashmir’s freedom movement as a whole. It is widely believed that the slogan “Hum Kya Chahte ? Azadi” (What Do We Want ? Freedom) was first uttered in Indian Occupied Kashmir against the Indian Occupation. However, Zareef Ahmed Zareef (a renowned Kashmiri Poet) says the same slogan used to be raised in the Persian language against Mughal Rulers. “The people would chant, ‘Maa Azadi Mekhwaahaem, Maa Azadi Mekhwaahaem (We Want Freedom, We Want Freedom).”

‘Hum Kya Chahte? Azaadi (What do we want ? Freedom), Hai Haq Humara – Azaadi (Our Right is – Freedom) etc etc. I have always heard these slogans in my childhood and the same slogans still continue to ring my ears which are most chanted by the Kashmiri Youth in every street of Kashmir. I wasn’t able to connote the proper meaning of Azadi in my childhood but with time without learning from anyone I began to write the definitions and poetries in favor of Azadi (Freedom). When I define Azadi, ‘It is to be free from foreign occupation, killings, rapes, disappearances, custodial killings, fake encounters or any form of oppression.’

‘Azadi means to be from India because they beat us and don’t allow us to walk on the road’, replied an 8-year-old child when I asked him, what do you mean by Azadi? Following this definition, I moved to gather the other definitions from Kashmiri Youth.

What do you mean by the word ‘Azadi’. I asked this question to some Kashmiri Youth so that those people will understand who claims it to be a brainwashed or sponsored activity. The pertinacious Kashmiri Youth have a clear understanding of the word ‘Azadi’. It seems they have an irrevocable relationship with it. They’re more committed to Azadi than their lives, and overtly & covertly they unequivocally say, we want freedom from India.

And I got the interesting responses mentioned below.

 “I don’t want any non-Local in uniform to check my I-card. This is my country, why would I show my I-Card to a foreigner ?, rather he should show me his I-Card. I will not say ‘I want Freedom’, I will say ‘We want Freedom’ because I’m not the only one to receive pellets & bullets but the whole of Kashmir is receiving the same treatment from India.”

~ Suhail Ahmad ( B. Sc. 1st year student)

 “Azadi means UN Resolution of 1948 which talks about the plebiscite. So, hear our judgment through a plebiscite.”

~ Muhammad Azhar (MBA)

“Every human has been bestowed freedom by nature and its importance remains an unquestionable fact. No human can be chained to any idea for a very long time and when you have a hard-hitting opposition to the occupation, an occupier must end it, not only for the good of the occupied but for itself as well. The legitimacy of rule ends when ruled feel occupied.”

~ Sajad Rasool (Journalist)

“Firstly India has illegally occupied Kashmir. Our resources have been continuously looted by India and in return, we’ve got pellets and bullets only. I don’t want to see bloodshed anymore. We want Freedom from India. And the day India leaves my Kashmir will be Azadi (Freedom) for me.”

~ Shakeel Ahmad (Engineering Student)

 “For me, azaadi is to see no Human Rights violations, no AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), no Indian Troops. And, to live in a peaceful Kashmir will be my Azaadi.”

~ Aqsa Mir (Kashmir University Student)

“I only want my rights back which Indian Illegal occupation have vandalized, burnt, captured, tortured, murdered, encountered, raped, brutalized, caged, killed, disappeared, orphaned, widowed, stationed, ruled, etc, etc. The day I get my rights back I would feel I am an Azaad (Free) person.”

~ Rizwan Khan (Businessman)

 “Azaadi means freedom from oppression, repression, dehumanization, injustice, brutality, and savagery. It also means having the right to dignity of life, the dignity of identity, being able to guide one’s own political destiny, freedom from exploitation of our land (Kashmir) & people, and most importantly having the avenues to create a just and equitable society for all to the best of our ability.”

~ Arhan (Student)

“Aazadi as the word itself reflects the demands of people, it’s not only freedom from India but also from other things, especially the use of drugs, and evils, which are instigating in our society. Aazadi for us is a dream of a future that would be full of joy and happiness. It would be without suppression, bloodbath, oppression, barbarism. It would give Kashmiri his own identity which has had lost when India took control of this portion of land excluding what the people of Kashmir demanded. Aazadi in Kashmir is the long-lasting dream which every young see every night.”

~Ruwaid Zargar* (Freelance Writer)

“When it comes to the slogan of “Azadi” that the youth shout on roads or when it’s written on walls as graffiti, it has a pretty simple meaning. The youth of Kashmir want complete independence from the illegal occupation of the Indian state in Kashmir. Further, it means holding a referendum in both parts of Kashmir across the Indo-Pakistan Border to choose their fate as per UN Resolutions. It can be said that the people want to develop their independent country with Jammu, Ladakh, Kashmir, Muzafarabad, Gilgit and Baltistaan as its regions.“

~ Aymen (Kashmir University Student)

 “Azaadi means not to be controlled militarily by a foreign army. Among a hundred other things.”

~ M C Kash (Kashmiri Rapper)

“India wants to own us, but the problem is we don’t want to be part of it. We have never been a part of it. We want recognition of our own identity. We want Azaadi. Our aspirations are entirely political, it’s not an economical or social issue.”

~ Naziya Ali (KU Scholar)

“For me, azadi means freedom from all oppression, whether external or internal. It means freedom from India and freedom from any trait that resembles that of an occupier or oppressor, from traits that can turn us into an oppressor tomorrow. For me, azaadi means a scenario where everyone breathes free of fear, and smiles the smile of love.”

 ~ Essar Batool (Professional Social Worker)

 “Well, Azadi is freedom from all the ills. Freedom from oppression and the oppressors, freedom from the evil heads, freedom from the illegal occupation of India, freedom to use and develop our own resources and utilize them efficiently for development. Freedom from bullets and pellets. Freedom from draconian laws. Freedom from murders and innocent killings in broad daylight. Azadi is the freedom to be “US.” we want to see Dawn of Freedom with our eyes wide open.”

~ Sabah Wani (KU Scholar)

 “A non-Kashmiri shouldn’t be asking me to show my ID in my own Kashmir…. That’s a part of Azadi for me”

~ Shuhaab Shah (Doctor)

 “Azaadi has different forms for different people around the world, but for a Kashmiri, it is dignity, identity, and basic need. Azaadi is an honor which people of Kashmir are striving for. Azaadi is not money, Azaadi is not brainwashed, it is not sponsored, It is morally not acceptable to any Kashmiri to live under occupation. Azaadi is the fight for our identity.”

~ Owais Wani (Social Activist)

“Azadi for me is freedom from aggression, violence, harassment, killings, rapes, and torture (psychological and physical as well). Azaadi means Freedom from Occupation and Oppression.”

~ Imran Majid ( Professional Social Worker)

 “We do injustice with the word Aazadi when we seek its meaning. Kashmiris are very clear when we utter the word, Aazadi, it’s an urge for ending and getting free from the occupation we have been enslaved in ever since the Indian forces took control of our land.”

~ Nasir Patigaru (Social Activist)

“For me Azadi means to be free from Indian Oppression which we have witnessed since 1947″

~Muzamil Sheikh (Businessman)

 Azadi is the most spoken word in Kashmir by every Kashmiri. I would say the genesis of this word is from Kashmir. After receiving the above answers from the Kashmiri Youth, it’s clear that Kashmir is a political issue and it would be a big goof to term it as a money issue because, if it had been an economic issue then, all sections of society, children, men, women, elders, and elite class wouldn’t have been on roads. So, it is not an economic issue. Moreover, those who tag it as a brainwashed activity are total incidents living on biased notions without reaching reality. Actually, it is a myth that serves nothing except a spoof because, in this era of knowledge and consciousness, we can’t expect an educated individual will be brainwashed. And, an Engineering Student cannot chant slogan (s) for any futile reason. It’s an answer to a famous myth that Kashmiri Youth are misguided.

 Not related to this write-up but still I want to share a response from my friend from Delhi who might be reading this article. Some days, I asked him, what is your take on Kashmir Issue? He said, “After living for 2 years in Jammu & witnessing the discrimination which is done against Kashmiris, after witnessing the unhappiness of Kashmiris towards India, after witnessing PM Modi’s concern for Paris more than the ongoing Kashmir issue. I came up with a result that, India has financially helped Kashmir a lot but India has also failed to understand the feeling of its people. I can go on but I don’t like to type.”

In Haryana, Jats were protesting violently, blocking roads, destroying railway tracks, and raping women and the same was done by Patel Protestors also. Not even a lathi charge was used to thwart the protestors. But, when Kashmiris protest they’re dealt with pellets and bullets. This was the discrimination that my friend talked about.

Furthermore, he concluded with the words, “In short I believe Kashmir should be made a nation-state. Separate from India as well as from Pakistan.”

Azadi is a refined & unanimous answer to the Indian Occupation. The 2016 uprising has witnessed a mass involvement of people comprising children, men, women, and old fellows of Kashmir which has strengthened the resistance movement for freedom. The contemporaneous situation is the same resistance movement that was seen & observed in the 2008 & 2010 uprisings. Same means, it follows the same cause that’s “AZAADI” (Freedom). In every street of Kashmir, a non-local will find every wall written with the graffiti, “We Want Freedom”.

Let me write,

the wait is definite, the voices are clear,
not only Kashmiris but every Chinar leaf also,
with utmost faith, says, ‘We Want Freedom’ 

The writer is an Independent Researcher & an aspiring Social Worker.

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