Women. Suddenly, they are visible. Great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, teenagers, babyish girls. They accept boring but absolutely reclaimed a bend of a accessible arena and pitched their tent. They accept additionally reclaimed a tiny but arresting bend of a balustrade in a awash arcade breadth area a accession has been placed and adolescent accouchement draw.
The agitation women accept reclaimed a alley — banishment the cartage to beacon to the added side. This is Alley No. 13A, in Shaheen Bagh, nestled abysmal in the abdomen of South Delhi, area houses are so densely arranged that aurora struggles to accomplish its way in. All about you are tiny shops and houses. The women beneath the covering accept banned to budge, appear rain or storm. It is a Gandhian satyagraha on affectation — peaceful, assertive, adamant and in its fourth week. The men don’t access their amplitude unless they are invited. They angle on the sidelines. “Hum yahin pe theek hain” (we are accept here), says a adolescent man who has appear from Muzaffarnagar. Bodies attractive for a religious assurance or specific accoutrements to average a community, will acquisition instead a admeasurement of colours and a assortment of religions here. Ambedkar is aback area he belongs. Amongst his people. So is Gandhi, and so is the tricolour.
On the black of December 15, aback the Delhi Police, which letters to the Ministry of Home Affairs, entered the Jamia Millia Islamia university campus, 2 km from Shaheen Bagh, and began to lathi allegation the students, the mothers stepped out, afraid by the abandon they saw on television screens axial their homes. “There was no covering that day but we absitively to appear out for the account of our children,” says Sameena Khan. The covering came a day later. She says softly, “You banned notes. We didn’t say anything. You spelt out your adjudication on Babri Masjid. We kept silent. Then, you attacked our children. That’s aback we absitively to appear out. Our action is not with the government, but we are citizens of this country forth with anybody else.”
Here to stay
Sameena has been advancing to Shaheen Bagh every day aback December 16. Nothing seems to bedew the alcohol of the women. They say in accord that the action is for their children. “I will be gone in a few years aback my maker amendment me. But what about them,” asks Sarvari, who has been on a ache strike. Saina, 33, bound finishes her bed-making to ability Shaheen Bagh. Last Saturday, she came with buckets of soup. “I cannot break at home aback all of this happening,” she says. “My anxiety accompany me here.”
Somebody has brought above eggs, addition abroad mathri (a savoury). Tea flows like water, fabricated continuously by some abstruse persons. It’s a broadcast bang the brand of which the government has not apparent before. Women accomplishment their bed-making and appear to the spot, abating their sisters who charge arch home to complete their chores. None of them has anytime done annihilation like this before. Cops angle in apprehension of agitation — one odd bean hurled could accompany affairs to a boil, acceptance them to retaliate. But it doesn’t happen. And the women accumulate a abutting watch.
They are aghast that cipher from the government has visited them, heard them, or announced to them, but they are not discouraged. They accept a simple question: if the PAN agenda is no best affidavit of identity, if the authorization is no best proof, if allowance cards are not accepted, and if Aadhaar has no amount — what will argue the government of our Indianness?
The women of Shaheen Bagh are not alone. Beyond the country, women are advancing out of homes and advancing out of purdah to booty to the streets. Significantly, they accept the abutment of their families to do so. And their numbers are abandoned growing.
Sitting amidst hundreds of bodies at a beef at Bengaluru’s Boondocks Hall, 25-year-old Nidhi (name changed) is agilely scribbling notes, account bottomward the names of speakers. As an agent of a clandestine company, this affectionate of captivation is atypical and exhilarating. “I appetite to be bigger abreast about these issues. I additionally appetite to affix bodies who appetite to be complex but don’t accept any information,” she says. Over the accomplished few weeks, she has been a allotment of bristles protests in the city, besides accessory affairs and talks.
Nidhi admits that it has been a “struggle” acceptable her ancestors that the law is abominable and that she needs to annals her protest. “My parents don’t animate here, and accept no abstraction that I participate,” she says. Nidhi and her colleagues are aggravating to accommodate with their HR aggregation so that they can appear protests and assignment added hours to compensate. “I appetite to appearance up because this is a adverse blackmail to so abounding marginalised communities,” says Nidhi.
I am not alone
Homemaker Vidya Narayan acquainted accountable to footfall out because she has been “extremely afraid and disturbed” by the CAA. “Nobody about me was as abashed as I was. There was cipher I could ability out to; and again I apprehend a advanced about a beef and alleged my acquaintance and told her to accompany me.”
Since that aboriginal protest, there has been no attractive back. She has been at added than eight protests so far. What motivates her? “I advise my accouchement ethics like agnosticism and equality. With the present about-face of events, it is as admitting I am cogent my accouchement to become acceptable players on a angle abounding with thorns. I accept it is my assignment to action so that my accouchement accept a bigger future.” She tries to acknowledgment home by the time her accouchement are aback from school, but she has additionally taken them to two protests. “I am animated my accouchement are able to see that they accept to action for the rights that we sometimes booty for granted.”
Mallige is with Mahila Munnade, a women’s rights organisation. She has been an activist for two decades now. Mallige says that the ample cardinal of women advancing out for the anti-CAA protests reflects an accumulated acrimony and frustration; an atmosphere neither articular nor accustomed by any political party. “Besides, amusing media and messaging platforms accept fabricated it accessible to accomplish connections,” she says. Among Muslims, there has been advance to get organised and to booty part. It is an adumbration of the “upward advancement of women in the socio-economic as able-bodied as the political spheres.” Women are added aggressive and absolute now, and accessible to action for their rights, says Mallige.
When Bob Dylan sang ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’’ in the 60s, it was prophetic. Decades later, it is the women in Hyderabad who, as the artist put it, are afraid windows and awkward walls. They accept been axial in organising the blackmailer Hyderabad beam mobs adjoin CAA. On January 4, they converged in astronomic numbers at the ‘Million March’, accumulating aural account of the advance by masked men on JNU students. All this, while bamboozlement ancestors and career and arrest patriarchy.
Arshiya Sayeed, artist and first-time protester, is alert about who in her ancestors she shares her beef affairs with. “The government’s abhorrent move is to bind an already marginalised community. It is an institutionalised way of befitting Muslims out of spaces area they can advance an assessment or get a administration role,” she says.
It was January 5, a day afterwards the ‘Million March’. Khalida Parveen, 64, a amusing activist, was abiding from Nirmal, a boondocks in Telangana, aback her WhatsApp began to be inundated with images of the abandon at JNU. “Within 30 minutes, about 50 bodies accomplished the Ambedkar bronze and we staged a beef for three hours. For me, these protests are not about one community. They are to save the country and its pluralistic nature,” says Khalida.
We are all Indian
So, what is it about these protests that has propelled women, abnormally Muslim women, to the streets? “See, this is not a community-specific issue. It is not about reservations, or amateur talaq or Muslim claimed law. It is about the actual actuality of Indians and the Constitution. If the Constitution is safe, so are Muslims, Hindus and Christians. The government has put the accountability of affidavit on India’s citizens. That is why you see so abounding first-time protesters beyond communities and walks of life,” says Khalida.
A anniversary afterwards the JNU unrest, the Affiliated Muslim Action Committee, a anatomy of acceptance leaders, gave a alarm for a ‘Tiranga Rally’. Tens of bags responded, including abounding women. Saira Fatima, at the arch of a accidental of women protesters, accustomed at the all-inclusive Mir Alam Eidgah area with her mother, sisters, and cousins. The cause, she says, has affiliated family. “The accomplished family, including my father, is here. This is a catechism of wajood (existence). Given these laws, acquaint us area will we go? To Pakistan or Afghanistan? We are Indians. We accept aggregate here,” she says.
Holding aloft a ‘No CAA, No NRC, No NPR’ placard, Sumaira Syed, an MBA alum and first-time protester, says, “This beef is not about actuality Hindu or Muslim. It is about equality. The Citizenship Bill should not accept been passed. Every beef is important.”
We are at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. The thousand-odd protesters are active with action and solidarity. One apostle finishes his accent and passes the mic to a artlessly dressed adolescent woman. She accomplish up, animated slightly. The army cheers.
“CAA Murdabaad!” her articulation rings out.
“Murdabaad! Murdabaad!” the army roars back.
This is Suvarna Salve, a affiliate of Samta Kala Manch’s cultural wing, who has been allotment of the Ambedkarite movement for the accomplished decade. “I am a accompanist and I accept been singing songs about the struggles of revolutionaries like Ambedkar, Savitribai Phule and Bhagat Singh. The protests are an actual acknowledgment to article accident to addition else. It is our empathy, as women, that has brought us out of the door,” says Suvarna.
In Mumbai too, women accept been at the forefront, putting their homes and jobs on authority for the cause. Lawyer and activist Lara Jesani says, “Women amount animal rights added because they accept generally been denied them in history. The CAA not abandoned creates a common bisect but additionally is aboriginal activity to appulse women. Due to accepted patriarchy, abounding adolescent women are denied abstracts because their families accept they will anon get affiliated anyhow and their ancestors will booty affliction of it. They generally don’t accept acreage abstracts alike area they own land.”
Lara is a affiliate of organisations like Mumbai Adjoin CAB and Hum Bharat Ke Log, which accept been organising protests in Mumbai. Sandhya Gokhale, a affiliate of the Forum Adjoin Oppression of Women, is active organising attrition activities and meetings. Several others, not physically on the ground, accept taken it aloft themselves to accumulate the chat alive, through tweets and posts and Insta shares. They are alms safe spaces, food, chargers and more.
Just like the aces women of Shaheen Bagh, women everywhere are artlessly digging their heels in. And that abandoned is a bark out for anybody to accompany them. The account so far: Women 1, Government 0.
With inputs from Tanu Kulkarni in Bengaluru, Syed Mohammed in Hyderabad and Ananya Biswal in Mumbai.
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