MUMBAI, Maharashtra — On Monday night, at about 8.30 pm, musician Ankur Tiwari stood at the centre at Mumbai’s Carter Road promenade, the same street where stars such as Aamir Khan have homes, and began humming his guitar.
“Tere Zaalim Iraadon Ke Zulmo Sitam Sahe, Wo Hum Nahi, Jo Khauf Ke Kahar Se, Khamosh Rah Gaye,” Tiwari crooned. He’d later reveal that he’d only written and composed the song the day before.
Tiwari, who recently composed songs for Gully Boy, was encircled by hundreds of people holding placards that called out fascism and bigotry and articulated their support for JNU, AMU and Jamia students, all of whom have faced violent attacks in the past few weeks. While students at Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia were brutally beaten by the police for peacefully demonstrating against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, students at Jawaharlal Nehru University were violently assaulted by masked assailants chanting right-wing slogans.
Among the crowd were some of the most celebrated filmmakers, writers and actors of the country. Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj sat on the steps, clapping gently. Next to them were Anubhav Sinha and Anurag Kashyap, while Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Hansal Mehta sat on one end, cheering for Tiwari as he sang on.
A little above the steps, stood Richa Chadha and Ali Fazal banners in hand, while beside them stood Vikramaditya Motwane holding a placard that said, “Illiteracy is a Sanghi’s wet dream’. Dia Mirza, Taapsee Pannu, Rahul Bose, Sayani Gupta and Swara Bhasker (who joined in later) too marked their presence as did director Raj Kumar Gupta and Sudhir Mishra.
“We’re here with students of all the three universities who were attacked. We want to tell them we are with them and will stand for them every time,” Anubhav Sinha said. Thank you Mumbai police for not detaining us,” which led to much laughter. The cops, about 50-75 of them watched on.
After Tiwari’s song, the crowd chanted Sarfaroshi Ki Tamana, followed by Ho Gayi Hai Peer Parvat Si and Tu Zinda Hai Tu Zindagi Ki Jeet Par Yakeen Kar and then, in a goosebump-inspiring moment, began chanting Hum Honge Kaamyab. Later on, Bhardwaj recited his poem.
He followed it up with Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge, which the crowd sung along. And then in a moment that reflected the casual camaraderie between the directors, Sinha and Kashyap urged Bhardwaj to sing Aao Na from Haider, a film that calls out violence perpetrated by Indian armed forces in Kashmir. A difficult song to sing, Bhardwaj went for it, encouraged by wife Rekha.
Just as the director was done singing, music composer and singer, Swanand Kirkire erupted on the scene. He said he was there to protest against the attack on JNU which some people insisted on calling a ‘clash.’ He followed up with a powerful poem called, ‘Hindustan Kehte Hain Mujhe, Main Gandhi Ka Desh Hoon.’
However, nobody was prepared for what came next. Kirkire’s friends from Bollywood insisted that he sing Bavra Mann, the iconic song from Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, yet another powerful drama that was about student politics and state oppression. As Kirkire’s voice engulfed that pocket of Bandra, Sudhir Mishra, the director of the movie the song is from, had moist eyes as did actor Richa Chadha.
“We aren’t fools. We are watching. We know how riots are caused and how these situations are created,” director Anurag Kashyap told reporters.“We can see what you want to do and what’s your intention. We can see where you are taking us. We won’t let you take us there.”
While Bhasker, who’s been relentless in her criticism of the attacks and the government’s handling of it said, “I am hoping that now everyone in the country will break their silence. It’s enough. There’s a saying in Hindi, ‘Bahut hua sammaan’. We have reached that stage in this country where we have shown enough respect to the government and law and order machinery, which have repeatedly failed to fullfil their responsibility.”
As the night came to an end, Sinha urged people to sing the national anthem with such gusto that it reaches Delhi. It probably did.
Until yesterday night, no arrests had been made in connection with the attacks on JNU allegedly by ABVB goons.
In fact, Home Minister, Amit Shah amped up the hate once again, claiming that some students had raised slogans like ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’ and said they should be “sent to jail”.
And yet, on Monday night, Mumbai stood in support of the students and against the hate, chanting slogans of solidarity and togetherness, slaying bigotry with songs and poetry.