16 May, 2021

Shoot Me With A Slogun

If politics is in our blood, the slogan is the pulse. Its rhythms aren’t partisan­: they create a community of words.

Illustration by Manjul
Shoot Me With A Slogun

In 2014, after Narendra Modi had run off with his juggernaut of a victory, casting rival political actors into a kind of existential dread and plunging non-believers into stupefied silence, there was a joke that tried to lighten the gloom in some quarters. It’s a beguiling little sketch. On a grassy knoll somewhere in communist heaven, Charu Majumdar turns to Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal and says ruefully, “Comrades, we missed a trick back in the Sixties. All we had to say was…Agli Baari Naxalbari!” This comic inversion—with its wry echoes of the old crowd-rouser ‘Amar bari/Tomar bari/Naxalbari, Naxalbari’ (My house, your house, Naxalbari’)—tells us something. Slogans speak, but sometimes they also seem to listen. Because they inhabit a shared territory. Of language and its mysterious ways. You and I may be on the opposite sides of a fence, but that fence runs across the same planet of words. And no repeal of a treaty, no Brexit, no Iron Curtain, no political splintering can ever fully debar words. They fly in and...

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