by- Pinjra Tod

This update comes somewhat late, but it took us time to recover from the exhaustion of the last 2 weeks and to absorb the beautiful experience that was the public meeting on the afternoon of 15th February, as we together sought to deconstruct dominant ideas of what it means to love, towards building an imagination of what radical love and politics has been and could be about, a love that challenges, a love that demands a fundamental political and ideological engagement with the self and with processes of collectivisation. All the speeches last Thursday were tremendously powerful and moving, as the speakers wove together in an amazing manner, the complexities, challenges and struggles of what it means to love in our times.

Akhil Katyal, the ‘shayar’, disrupted with humour and irony the seriousness with which we tend to build our fantasies of love and desire, challenging with lightness and irreverence the masculinity and violence that marks our encounters of love. Ranu Kulshrestha and Asif Iqbal shared with us the beautiful story of their love that defied the diktats of religion, to talk about how through the struggle and power of their love, they arrived at their politics, which led them to start DHANAK, an organisation that provides support to inter-caste and inter-religious couple. As they said in the end of their speech, “pyaar kiya toh darna kya, jaat dharm ka karna kya?’.

We were also joined in the meeting by Ankit Saxena’s cousin, Ashish Duggal (R.I.P Ankit SaxeNa) and his friends, “the Awara Boys”. Responding to our slogans of ‘Ankit tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pohchayenge’, he urged us to fight not just for Ankit, but for every person who has dared to break free of the many pinjras that are imposed on us by society to restrict who we can and cannot love. He urged us to ‘act’, to not make the ‘mistake’ that he made of waiting for a ‘personal tragedy’ to find the resolve to fight against the politics of hate, so that we can together build a nation ‘jaha pyaar par bandisheh nahi hogi”, where those like Ankit, Manoj, Babli, Shankar and many others will live, and not be ‘punished’ with death.

Comrade Urmila’s speech was a powerful declaration of a transgressive love, a moment of intimate sharing and joy. She also talked about her journey of finding non-normative communities and friendships, her journey of ‘coming to’ politics — ending her speech with a call to support the campaign for release of her comrades, two Pricol workers who have been unjustly sentenced to ‘double’ life imprisonment by the courts.

Comrade Ramniwas Kush shared stories from the Maruti workers’ struggle, poignantly illustrating how our desires are so embedded in the ‘bazaar’, in the aspirations and imaginations that capitalism produces in us–“kyun tumhare sapno meh rajkumar toh aata hai, par kabhi koi mazdoor nahin aaega?”. He spoke of how capitalism fundamentally builds mistrust, and it is this mistrust that marks institutions such as marriage, that are considered to be epitome of the fulfilment of love — love is about trust, if there is trust, what is the need to marry? It is capitalism that destroys love and builds envy and competition, and whether our practice of love reinforces or challenges capitalist structures, has to be a political choice for us. As a worker, it is in his experiences of collectively fighting and organising with other workers against the oppression and exploitation that marks their everyday lives, it is in his experiences of building systems of care and support beyond the family, it is in the experiences of the workers movement taking responsibility for the loved ones of the workers who languish in jail on false charges — that Ramniwas has found the radical potential of love, a love that is collective, a love that is revolutionary.

Finally, it was to the fading light of dusk, that Dhiren Borisa opened himself to us, and in the process, opened us all to memories of our deepest vulnerabilities and fears, our insecurities and yearnings, our anger and desperation, the ‘mazburis’ and the ‘pachida-pan’ that marks our experiences of love and pain, so structured by our locations and histories of marginalisation, even as we seek everyday to escape, forget and fight against them. From stories of his grandmother’s imagination of the sea beside Delhi to her fear of loved ones ‘leaving’ for the city and not coming back ‘alive’, from stories of who the city nurtures with fulfilment, possibility and love and who it disappoints and rejects, to our universities where those who do not ‘belong’ fight an everyday battle for survival and dignity, Dhiren’s poetic verse unmasked the many wounds that we carry within us in the quest for love and stardust, wounds that are marked by the violence of caste, class, gender, race, sexuality and much more — wounds whose healing we must together seek.

Due to certain other commitments, Grace Banu and members of Ektara Collective were unable to make it to the meeting and we terribly missed their presence. We will be uploading the videos of all the speeches, songs, slogans and poetry over the coming week, as its impossible to do justice in words to what transpired in the gathering 

anarkali tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pohchayenge
tum kitno ko chunwaogey ge, hum har diwar girayenge!