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SHAHEEN BAGH A SYMBOL OF WOMENS’ POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT
By Arun Srivastava
Mahatma Gandhi has come alive at Shaheen Bagh. Politicians usually chant his name. So far the politicians have been exploiting the name of Gandhi for their personal benefits, but probably this is for the first time that the protesters are living his ideals. The special feature of the movement has been the protesters for the first time in Independent India have been pursuing the non-violent Satyagraha the fundamental ideal of Gandhism.
This is precisely the reason that even the Delhi police which carried out brutal attacks on students, especially on the women students, in Jamia Millia Islamia is finding it tough to muster courage to touch the protesters. Protesters resorting to Gandhian ideology has been basically the reason for Narendra Modi and his colleagues failure to muster moral conviction and courage to personally reach out to the protesters and open dialogue with them.
It is really a matter of shame that some senior ministerial colleagues of Modi have been trying to malign it as the Muslim protest to protect their communal interests. This is nothing but a slur on the Indian nationalism which has been primarily pluralist in character and never endorsed partisan politics.
To justify their insinuations against them these ministers and leaders have been citing the satyagraha being held closer to Muslim dominated areas. But undeterred by such allegations the protesters say that since these Shaheen Bagh-inspired protests are limited to Muslim neighbourhoods, it shouldn’t be assumed that it is just Muslim sisters or brothers who are protesting. They point towards the Hindu and Sikh women participants and assert that people from different religion and beliefs are participating and standing in solidarity with them.
There is no doubt that the number of Muslim women participants is more than the Hindu women. But the fact cannot be denied that they are participating and are part of the movement. The movement has now acquired a pan-Indian character. This is not a mean achievement. Yet another positive development that has taken place is Punjabi women have started langars for the protesting women
Shaheen Bagh inspires many protests across the country. The anti-CAA sit-in protests led by women at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh are inspiring. The protest spearheaded by women at Shaheen Bagh has completed a month. Yet, it marks the beginning of a series of protracted demonstrations and sit-ins; from Allahabad to Kolkata to Pune to Bhopal to Bengaluru to Kochi; Shaheen Bagh is everywhere.
The BJP which has large supporters in the trading and small business are instigating them to raise the issue of their inconvenience due to this month long protest and force the police to vacate the place of the protesters.
Involving women is a strategic move of the organisers to broaden the space and ambit of the protest. Besides forcing the state machinery to refrain from using violence against them they have been motivating the hesitant women to come to the streets. This has also made the protesters to behave in a more restrained and disciplined manner. Women (and men) across the nation have now occupied parks, maidans and roads to register their protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Undoubtedly the protesting women are scared of nasty machinations. They fear that on any day in the night they may pounce upon and evict them. Shaheen Bagh has become the face of women protest and galvanized people. This situation is unacceptable to BJP and Modi government, especially to Amit Shah.
Shaheen Bagh has one very positive and interesting aspect. They are open to the idea of engaging in a political debate. They are ready to discuss the issue of CAA, NRC and NPR with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Their argument is simple and straight: if we keenly listen to his Man Ki Baat, why he is not listening to our Maan Ki Baat. He must be open to discuss our views.
After the Uttar Pradesh police’s brutal crackdown of mass protests on December 19 across the state, voices of opposition fell into silence. But gradually people regained their footing and organised themselves through Shaheen Bagh.
These are women who live in slums, and affluent localities; many are home makers. They all have gathered here to protest, to break taboos and inspire others. And primarily to erase the impression that Indian homemakers are not politically conscious. These women openly confess that they are afraid of losing their identity and more than it the identity of their sons, daughters and grandsons and granddaughters. They argue Aadhaar card, PAN and Election identity card are more than enough to prepare a population register of citizens.
The manner in which government has been maintaining passive attitude on the citizenship issue has only strengthened the belief of these women that the ruling party has been out to finish the ideal of secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution. Led by communal demagogues, it has been waging war against the country’s Muslim community. What aggravated the situation is the government’s brutal and illegal response to the protests. The women say that they came to the streets to protect their sons and daughters future in this country.