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From the Editors

The voice is not locked down


The year 2020 began with the voices of resistance soaring, blending into one voice, a people’s voice, saying No to CAA. No to NRC. No to NPR. No to inequality, injustice, to the brazen distortion of the Constitution. The betrayal of every person’s rights. 

Women, children, men, old, young – everyone marched, occupied streets, spoke, wrote, sang. 

In response to this resistance, the communal virus was unleashed. Delhi burnt.


Image courtesy Indian Cultural Forum


Then came a more literal virus that would show up more than one disease among us. Diseases that have been around for long, and that grow – every time a migrant worker dies walking home; every time a dissenting voice is hounded or arrested; or every time there’s proof that hunger is the worst virus of all.

In such times, can we fall silent? No. Guftugu presents, in collaboration with many friends, artists and poets, images and words through which our artists, our poets, tell us powerfully, beautifully: The voice is not locked down.

We begin the issue with Saba Hasan’s evocative work on the cover: we will never forget the communal violence in Northeast Delhi. Ranbir Kaleka captures soaring against the sky, the image that vaults over all walls during a lockdown. And poet Satchidanandan asks us, with almost unbearable eloquence, some questions from the dead as he writes his poetic essay on nationalism.


Photograph by Ranbir Kaleka | Published in collaboration with Vadehra Art Gallery


Questions from the Dead:

An Essay on Nationalism

K. Satchidanandan


Which country’s border was Hiuen Tsang crossing 

when, on a donkey,  he crossed the Himalayan pass 

with a sack full of Buddhist texts?


Whence came the races that spoke

Dravidian and Aryan tongues? Was there no one in India

when they landed here? Not even a tribal?


Where did the Bharatvarsha of Mahabharat and Meghdoot 

begin, where did it end? Did Bhasa and Kapilar 

belong to the same country?


Where were the borders of the India of Fahien 

and of Al-Biruni? Where was Taxila? Which was 

the India Alexander set out to conquer? Which 

country did Ashoka and Akbar rule?


Who created India: the East India Company

Or Mountbatten? Or was it Gandhi? When

Did ‘Hindu’ become the name of a religion?


When did Earth come to be in the history 

 of the universe? When did nations come to be

in the history of Earth? How many nations

make a human body? What is the kinship between

human soul and nations’ maps? Did all the births of 

Bodhisattva take place in India? How many oceans 

are there in each language? How many skies 

in winds? How many seasons for love?


I had been guarding the borders till yesterday. All 

my life I had arguments about borders. My living flesh

bled, caught in their barbed wire fencing. I went

to court in their name, killed many times, died many times.

They said I would become a martyr if I died

for the cause, that it would secure Heaven for me.


My land, I do not loathe you, nor do I worship you.

Had I been born elsewhere I would have lived another 

life; I would have needed a passport to enter you.


Today at last I am going to cross all the borders

and become part of the Earth. Do not cover me with flags.


Today I know, we are a creation of coincidences,

like our body, like the Solar System. We have

no scope for pride, and war does not have even

that scope. Bury me deep without an anthem.


No one ceases to ask questions 

just because one is dead.  


(Translated from Malayalam by the poet) 

Read the Malayalam original here.

The photograph by Ranbir Kaleka is part of a Facebook and Instagram series by Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi, called “Thoughts from the Studio”.