‘Your pen is mightier than the sword!’: Manish Azad

  • September 8, 2023

Manish Azad pens down his experience on the NIA raid and search at their home in Allahabad. Translated from Janchowk by Rajender Singh Negi, New Delhi.



On the morning of 5 September 2023, at exactly 5.30 am, a police vehicle, known as Vajrayana used in situations of riots, was seen parked in the street leading to our house in Allahabad.


While stepping out for the morning walk, seeing the vehicle Amita and I began talking about where the riot might have taken place.


Just then my mother’s phone rang.


I wondered as to why Amma was calling so early in the morning?


It occurred to me that perhaps it must be to ask for bringing flowers for her puja.


But to my dismay on the other side, a man’s voice boomed.


‘Who are you?’ I asked.


‘We are from National Investigation Agency (NIA),’ the man said.


Then he commanded, ‘Come home soon.’


It took us no time to figure out on whom the lightning of that Vajrayana standing in the street was going to fall upon.


We immediately rang up Seema (Azad).Her phone was switched off. We called up Kripa Shankar. His phone was also off. We then rang up Soni, a lawyer practicing in the High Court, but her phone was also switched off.


I remembered Costa-Gavras’s film Z.[i]


However, thinking about the condition of my 83-year-old father and my 82-year-old mother at this time, I felt terrified.


I started having difficulty in breathing.


It was only when Amita pressed my hand, I gained some semblance of courage.


As soon as we turned into the street leading to our home, we saw two police jeeps, two cars, a Vajrayana, at least 20 policemen, along with them about 15 people in civil dress. All equipped with modern weapons like AK-47s. Surrounded by these armed men, my parents were in a state of terrible shock. The phones of both were in the hands of a policeman.


Upon reaching the house, I almost screamed and hurled a litany of questions at them.


‘Where is my sister Seema?’

‘What did you guys do to her?’

‘Why is her phone switched off?’


I had a panic attack of sorts and I began screaming loudly. While clinging on to me, my mother almost cried and whispered in my ears to calm me down, lest these people would arrest and take me away.


Breaking through the police cordon, an NIA officer then came forward and said that it is not what you are thinking. He said that the same action was going to  happen at her place which isgoing to happen here.


I asked in the same tone, ‘what is going to happen?’ He said that a search was going to be conducted.


After that they raided the entire house upside down for about 12 hours.


All my books, movement pamphlets, magazines were strewn all over the room haphazardly.


Seeing this, I suddenly had a surrealist feeling as if someone had been brutally butchered and the blood was splattered all around.


What was more painful was that they did not spare our maa-baba’s almirahs and searched them too.


My mother had been saving all her valuables in her wardrobe for the last 50 years, which we never ever dared to touch. Raiders didn’t pay any heed to her  old age.


My father, who retired as Assistant Labour Commissioner, still does labour law consultancy pro bono. His files were also scrutinized.


My father has dignity and status in society. NIA’s conduct has deeply hurt his pride.


Despite our repeated protests, they continued to search their rooms and belongings, which was highly objectionable.


They even hurled ridiculous questions in between during the search such as why are we atheists? Why do we write only in support of Muslims-Dalits-Tribals-Naxalites? Why do we have this particular paper-cutting? Why do we have this book? Why do we study so much and so on.


After that they confiscated both our laptops, two mobile phones and two hard drives.


To be honest, I am most saddened by the loss of the two hard drives. In this, I had a unique collection of films from the past ten years. I pleaded with them a lot to spare my films, but they did not relent.


One of them, in fact, said very rudely that they had orders from above and that nothing could be done.


I told them with both sorrow and anger whether they didn’t have any conscience of their own, ‘Do you only follow orders blindly?’


He again said impudently, ‘whatever you understand’.


I angrily told him about the ‘Nuremberg trial’ saying that even the people who killed the Jews in gas chambers had given the same argument in their defence contending that they were only obeying orders. And the judges at that time had said that while following orders, one should have used one’s own morality and discretion.


Amita even responded in anger that ‘one day you guys will also face ‘Nuremberg trial’.


But the comment went over their heads. That’s why no one answered it.


Later an NIA member quietly asked what was this ‘Nuremberg’? I started giggling and advised him to go and google it.


He had said that the pen was mightier than the weapon and that we use this to change people’s opinion and want to overthrow the government by provoking the public, which was a big crime.


‘Reading your writings is a crime’, he said.


Almost the same action was being taken simultaneously at Seema Azad, Vishwa Vijay, Ritesh, Soni, Rajesh Azad, Kripa Shankar, Binda and members of  Bhagat Singh Student Morcha’s places.


Since everyone’s phones have been confiscated by NIA, no one is able to be contacted except Seema.


Somehow, I contacted Himanshu Kumar and told him my story.


Now this story is reaching you through them only. In today’s fascist regime, this story can be anyone’s story.


It is important to understand this.


They have registered a case against us under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).


The sword of arrest is hanging over us.


A new ‘Bhima-Koregaon’ is taking shape in its embryo.


Yet your solidarity and support keeps our spirits high.



To quote the revolutionary poet Varavara Rao:


We may not be the roaring sea

Still we are the roar of the ocean.

Destroyer of the east and west

Destroyer of the north and south


We are not the storm

We are the song that loves the storm

We are the sign of the storm.


[i] [Z is a 1969 political thriller directed by Costa-Gavras, adapted from the 1967 novel of the same name by Vassilis Vassilikos. The film presents a fictionalised account of the events surrounding the assassination of the democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. With its dark view of Greek politics and its downbeat ending, the film captures the director’s outrage about the junta that then ruled Greece. The title refers to a popular Greek protest slogan (Greek: Ζει, IPA: [ˈzi]) meaning “He Lives,” in reference to Lambrakis.]

— a reference from Wikipedia


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