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  • Meena Kandasamy

(Outlook Magazine/ 4-part series) The Long March to Freedom


Sometimes, a photograph arrests your attention and holds you in its thrall. Right at the moment of your first encounter with the image, you feel it is iconic. You gaze at it in the knowledge that this is a picture that captures a point in space and time, a picture that is simultaneously history and the future, a picture that marks the shape of things to come. It heralds the arrival of something new. It pulls together something timeless.

I was in Belgium when I first spotted that sun-drenched photograph on Twitter—a proud woman wearing a bright blue sari, holding high a framed portrait of B.R. Ambedkar, and behind her, other women carrying the red-and-blue flagpole painted in the colours of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panthers Party, in short, VCK) in their arms, decked in bangles. It was September 6. Peering from behind the sea of heads and four VCK flags were two young children. There were two middle-aged men, both onlookers. Bang at the centre of the picture, without appearing to intrude into it, was a young man in a pink shirt beating a drum with an intense, faraway look in his eyes.

In this celebratory moment, he was there but not quite. Like a war-drum, his instrument spoke for him—it kept count, never tiring. You could hear the thrum of the Panther slogans. The energy of the image of a brave, unfazed woman carrying Ambedkar’s image would make you sit up and applaud. She was looking directly at the camera, at us, as if she was beckoning us to come and witness her heroism.

Read the four-part series here

Part One: THE FIVE POINTED WHITE STAR OF DRAVID

Part Two: FLAGS OF OUR FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS

Part Three: THE LONG MARCH TO FREEDOM

Part Four: MAKING SENSE OF DALIT POLITICAL ASSERTIONS


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