Women stand tall in the recent agitations

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on January 14, 2020 Published on January 14, 2020

In the anti CAA/NRC and JNU protests, women have been at the forefront, winning the admiration and hearts of many

History will take a hard look at our present rulers on whether the violence, bloodshed, torture and deaths over CAA (Citizens Amendment Act) and NRC (National Registry of Citizens) were worth it.

But one positive fallout of this controversial issue has been the amazing and feisty manner in which women have come to the forefront. Take, for instance, the women protesters at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh. It is not easy to sustain a protest, even if it means sitting quietly and peacefully for a couple of days in the biting cold of Delhi. But these women, all Muslims of course, who are terrified that the twin evils of CAA and NRC might just throw them out of their homes and their country, have been now protesting for a whole month.

They want the government to withdraw this legislation, which might demand from them old documents — maybe even their grandmothers’ birth certificates — without which they stand the risk of becoming refuges/prisoners in detention centres in their own country.

And inspired by them, Kolkata has produced its own ‘Shaheen Bagh’ in the Park Circus area. From January 7, 30-odd women have been gathering there everyday to protest against the CAA. That women are leading the way in a community not exactly known for empowering their women or giving them freedom of any kind is a huge positive. Another silver thread is that even “suspicious” Muslims who do not generally integrate with other communities are pleasantly surprised to find people from other communities — mainly Hindus — supporting them.

Brave women

But it is the women of Shaheen Bagh who have won the admiration and hearts of many, even though the locals in the area are now getting fed up of road closures, as indicated by latest reports. The people quoted have said they are greatly inconvenienced by the protests by the women and have given an ultimatum to the local police that if the closed road is not opened within 48 hours, they will jam all the other roads in the area. They have the right to protest against problems, such as children and loved ones returning home late because of the road closure.

Just watching the Shaheen Bagh women on the videos available takes your breath away. Simple and direct communication is the most effective. Hearing the women tell various TV channels that they don’t care that no political leader has come to address them, as they realise that ultimately they will have to fight for their own rights, rings so true. “Neither Kejriwal nor any other politician will come. So we found our own voice. After all, what do politicians care about unemployment, or women sitting here in the bitter cold day after day? It makes no difference to their lives. We know we have to stop depending on those leaders.”

Wow, it is not only we, the educated, who have all the gyan about our two-faced politicians.

At Jamia and JNU, too

Moving to the gruesome violence in both the Jamia and the JNU in Delhi, the images and voices that have emerged are of women leaders. Be it Ayshe Renna of Jamia, waving her finger at a policeman, asking him to stop beating a male student and back off, or Aishe Ghosh, the student leader at JNU whose bloodied face was all over the social media after she was mercilessly beaten by iron rod-wielding hooded hooligans, women students are out there, fighting for a cause they believe in.

While our Bollywood biggies, from the three big Khans to the Bachchans, Kapoors and Kumars, have lost their voice on this issue, it first took a Swara Bhaskar to be called a randi (prostitute) and abused in the most vulgar manner on Twitter, and a Deepika Padukone to be abused in the very same disgusting language, for standing silently beside Aishe at the JNU to show solidarity. Yes, some from the young crop of Bollywood male actors have spoken up too, but in guarded language, except for film director Anurag Kashyap, who is being vilified too.

While Prime Minister Modi seems wiling to listen, Home Minister Amit Shah has hardened his stance on CAA and NRC. Let’s see who backs off first — the government with all its muscle power or the protesting women and students, misguided or enlightened, depending on your ideology.

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Published on January 14, 2020
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