Songs, Poems And Films: A Playlist For Protest

The ongoing nationwide protests against the CAA/NRC have sparked off urgent, beautiful music and poetry
Songs, Poems And Films: A Playlist For Protest

What are you listening to these days? What have you been watching? The ongoing nationwide protests against the implementation of the anti-muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens NRC) – and the state-backed police brutality on students that has followed – have sparked off some beautiful, urgent art: songs and poems, many of them performed on the streets, shot by fellow protestors on their mobile phones. The various local versions of "Bella Ciao", the Italian anti-fascist hymn. The guys singing Faiz Ahmad Faiz's "Hum Dekhenge" sitting atop a mountain. An elderly man dancing to the chants of Azadi with the backdrop of Gateway of India. The singing fishermen in Kerala on a 'water march'. The residents of Shaheen Bagh calling out homeboy Shah Rukh Khan's silence on the situation with humour by singing some of his famous film songs with changed lyrics.

We are revisiting pre-existing songs of dissent and revolution from every where: Coke studio, Pakistan to the Indian People's Theatre Association songbook to Bollywood. Independent musicians are coming up with new music that to add their voices to the movement.

This is a list of songs and poems that have been created as a direct result of the protests and have all been released in the span of last three weeks or so. By the time this piece will be published, there will be some more, and then some. Plus, a recommendation of documentaries that are relevant.



Krantikari – Park Circus

The irreverent and catchy track by Funkadelic hip hop collective – that gets its name from the Park Circus area in Kolkata which has, incidentally, become a venue for the ongoing protests – has a weird, local flow, and a killer punch line.

The Police – Rahul Rajkhowa

Dedicated to the 16 year old Sam Stafford who was shot during the protests against the CAA in Assam last month, Rahul Rajkhowa raps against police violence.

Public Property – Hoirong

With a video made of "WhatsApp forwards videos in the public domain", the Bengaluru-Delhi based noise rock band uses megaphone effects and garage punk electric guitars, and a refrain that goes: All these decisions are based on religion.

Bakre Ki Amma – Fiddlecraft 

With its easy indie pop sound, the Pune-based band has lyrics that serve as a warning: School college nahi, suna hai detention camp bann rahe hai.

Go Protest  – RollsRoy's and Abhishek Sekhri 

The no-frills and simple "Go Protest" has a message for the government: Sab ko dheere dheere ho raha ab shak hai.

The Down Troddence – Fight. React. Be a part.! ft Kel

The rage of the moment finds an outlet in the rage of metal music in this anthem by the multi- award winning folk/groove/thrash metal act from South India.

Scalp Dem – Delhi Sultanate X Seedhe Maut (prod by Jawan)

The Delhi-based band and hip-hop duo bring down fascism by combining reggae vibes, Bollywood retro and sharp lyrics.

Tukde Tukde Gang – Seven & Seven 

Rap artist Rahul Negi's Tukde Tukde Gang has something say about everything: from the JNU feel hike to opposing the CAA/NRC.

Andolan – Naqaab47 x Shoals 

Rap meets blissed-out electronica meets a Lata Mangeshkar sampling in this new track by New Delhi based indie duo.


Varun Grover's Ham Kagaz Nahi Dikhaenge

The writer, lyricist and stand-up comedian's poem – with a punchline that gets into the heart of the matter – has become a clarion call in the protests opposing the CAA/NRC.

Puneet Sharma's Tum Kaun Ho Be

Taking it forward from Grover's "Kaagaz Nahi Dikhayenge", Puneet Sharma's poem – recited on the first day of the Gateway of India protests – makes a necessary point beautifully: My country and I are close enough. Who the hell are you?

Aamir Aziz's Yeh Hai Jamia Ki Ladkiyaan

Recited in his distinct cadence, this poem by Aziz — the actor and musician who come up with the calming, powerful "Acche Din Blues" and "Pehlu Khan" last year — is an ode to "the brave girls of Jamia".

Vishal Bhardwaj's Hum Mayoos Nahi Hai

At the protest organised at Carter Road in Mumbai's Bandra, where a number of filmmakers had come together, Bhardwaj read out lines from a poem he wrote. The delivery is almost tender, the words sting: Sach bhi itna jhootha lagne lagta hai, jhooth bhi itna sacchai se bolte ho.


Ram Ke Naam, Anand Patwardhan

It may be a good time to watch/revisit Anand Patwardhan's seminal film that documented the madness that began it all: the destruction of the Babri masjid in 1991.

Final Solution, Rakesh Sharma  

There is an eerily prescient moment in Rakesh Sharma's damning documentation of the involvement of the Gujarat government in the Godhra pogrom of 2002 that links it to the present day: A muslim man dreads the day he has to prove his love for India with a piece of paper, and breaks down in front of the camera.

Meeting a Milestone – Ustad Bismillah Khan, Gautam Ghose  

You may have seen this 40 second clip doing the rounds on social media. Shehnai legend Bismillah Khan — a beedi in hand — talking about how nowhere in the world matches the fakiri way of life around the ghats of Benaras, thereby setting a wonderful example of the Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb. The film, by Gautam Ghose, is available for paid viewing on the National Film Development Corporation website.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom, Netflix 

The Oscar-nominated film about the "Euromaidan" protests of Ukraine in 2014 served as a model and inspiration for young protestors in Hong Kong. Maybe there is something for us to learn from it as well.

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