Posted on YouTube, this unforgettable video-letter by Sanjay Kak and Anurag Singh sears the brain. Here, Bant Singh, a lower-caste peasant activist, sings of rebellion from a hospital bed where he is recovering from a brutal attack. An image such as this, which does not fit mainstream celebrations of India’s “globalization,” might, without context, reinforce its Otherness and the need for even greater “globalization.” Bant Singh, however, speaks of being part of the same struggle as Bhagat Singh, a revolutionary, who was executed by the British Empire. In claiming that the struggle has remained the same after six decades of India’s independence, Bant Singh, exposes the deep antagonisms that run through the nation as its leaders embrace neo-liberalism. The free association of images on the web leads, perhaps, to a certain degree of ahistoricity; one reinforced by the isolated viewer. But it is also a means to end that isolation, part of a globalization in reverse. I learnt of this video through a South-Asian list-serve and Bant Singh’s songs, firm gaze, and fearless gestures have stayed with me as I teach, write, and stand in my town’s weekly anti-war protest. Like the political songs he sings, this video belongs to a collective project and so circulates freely without worries about copyright, finding a home wherever needed. At the very least, from which ever degree of isolation you saw this clip, you witnessed an act of criticism. And, as Brecht put it in his usual succinct way:
Give criticism arms And states can be abolished by it.