In these times ‘azadi’ has become the most loaded word. At a time when three JNU students are facing trial for chanting the ‘dreaded word’, Ranveer Singh is rapping to the top of charts by chanting azadi!
The song “Azadi” in the forthcoming Bollywood film “Gully Boy”, starring Ranveer Singh as a street rapper is composed Dub Sharma — whose real name is Siddharth — and rapper Divine. Although the song has been reworked for the movie, many people may not know that it was Kamla Bhasin, not former JNU Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who gave us the ‘azadi’ slogan. Kamla Bhasin, who has been fighting for equal rights for over 40 years, has very interesting story behind the chant, which she says she brought from Pakistan.

Bhasin told The Qunit that 35 years ago, she went to Pakistan at that time when it was ruled by military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq. She says: “The first group that rose up against Zia-ul-Haq was not a political party or political activists, it was a group of Pakistani feminists. I witnessed one such meeting and that’s where they chanted: ‘Women want azaadi, children want azaadi, we want our azaadi.’”
Bhasin says since no political meetings were allowed by the military regime, the Pakistani feminists devised a new way to bypass it. They took permission from the police to organise a women’s mela (fair) and put up stalls of bangles and other handicraft but ‘inside it was all about freedom and democracy”.
“There women started raising ‘azadi chants like ‘Women want azadi children want azadi, we want our azadi.’”
When Bhasin returned to India, she started using this chant according to the need of the situation. “It is a chant that is alive. It grows every day. It is not set in stone,” says Bhasin.
The song has become an intrinsic part of popular culture, especially after the movie Gully Boy adopted it. Bhasin, however, is not sure if the movie-makers adapted it from her or somewhere else.
“If they have learnt it from me, then it is great, I have borrowed it from Pakistan.”

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Asif Ullah Khan

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