By Salman Sultan
In independent India’s history, perhaps for the first time, we are witnessing such prolonged peaceful protest led by our brave mothers and sisters with toddlers in their lap as is the case with Shaheen Bagh, Okhla. Nothing like, freezing cold, household chores etc, could deter their resolve. Different ways of scaring these brave-hearts seemed to have only strengthened their resolve of fighting against such black and divisive laws like CAA-NPR-NRC, till it gets scrapped. However, it is incomprehensible as to why the Government has not come forward to resolve the issue. It seems such peaceful, democratic and secular protest hardly bothers our Government. In the past when scores of trains were obstructed, public property damaged, Government succumbed to the pressure. Long back, when teachers were on an all India strike, we met as a delegation to group of opposition political leaders which included not only future Chief Minister but even deputy Prime Minister, one of them asked “are we angry against the ruling establishment?” To our affirmative reply he counter questioned “Why then we are not vandalizing buses etc (public property)?” To our reminder that this is our own government and not British rule, he just kept quiet. Our politicians when they are not in power encourage violent protests and have no compunction in exploiting the sentiments of our youth. All political parties, therefore, have student wings and they take great interest in Student Union elections.
In Shaheen Bagh protest a very small area of a road near Kalindi Kunj was occupied but traffic was unnecessarily stopped even on side roads like: Madanpur-khadar, Abul Fazal-Kalindi Kunj. Traffic could also have been allowed on one side of the road opposite to the demonstration site. However, traffic was deliberately restricted on all these routes to create untold misery to common man travelling privately or in public transport. Intention might have been to crate rift between Shaheen Bagh protestors and rest of public.
Now over three months, Shaheen Bagh protest is perhaps the longest ongoing peaceful protest. Even Corona virus scare could not come in the way of steadfastness and law-abiding nature of our mothers and sisters. NCPCR (National Commission for protection of child rights) sought a report from D.M. South East Delhi in the light of advisory issued by Central and State government regarding safety and prevention for COVID-19. However, our mothers and sisters are already abiding by the advisory: assembly of protestors reduced to less than 50 (30-35), use of sanitizer for all entering through a single entry point, no crowding at stage or on floor, maintaining a distance of more than a meter between protestors etc.
Hypocrisy of this government which showed such great concern for Muslim women has been exposed. Yes, the government exploited dilly-dallying and confused state of mind on part of Muslim organizations, in particular, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). Triple Talaq is allowed by just one school of thought: Hanafi but clergy with half-baked knowledge even quoted Quran in Juma congregation. As per my limited knowledge TT is no where mentioned in our holy scripture: Quran. When I humbly pointed out this fact to the said clergy he sheepishly accepted ‘slip of tongue’. Just imagine the consequence of ‘Slip of tongue’ on a congregation consisting of thousands of praying Muslims. In Islam it is the bride which initiates marriage by giving her consent first which then is accepted by the bridegroom. She can also dictate terms in ‘Nikahnama’ but awareness for this were not created to the fullest extent. By passing bill on TT to alleviate suffering of our women folk and not even coming forward to understand point of view of protesting mothers and sisters in Shaheen Bagh has exposed double standard of our government. GOI painted a picture of Muslim women as just ‘Biryani’ and baby making machines but they are bewildered by the articulation, oratory and organization of Shaheen Bagh protestors.
It is Shaheen Bagh which has made an unrelenting government to be flexible and modify NPR: no ‘D’ entry against anyone as promised by Home Minister on the floor of upper house (Rajya Sabha). Shaheen Bagh’s peaceful protest seems to be instrumental in UNHCR petition to hon’ble Supreme Court of India: “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, has moved the Supreme Court seeking to have a say on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which she claimed lacked objectivity and rational and detracted from India’s international obligations not to discriminate between migrants on the basis of religion or render anyone stateless”.
Even prior to Shaheen Bagh it was girl students of Jamia who fearlessly went ahead to save their colleague from lathi-weilding Police men who strangely included masked plain clothes men. The symbolic finger raising gesture which cowed down an aggressive brutal Police force will remain etched in our memory. This resistance on part of our brave girl students triggered student protests in JNU, BHU, IIT Kanpur, AMU, and Delhi University etc. Bravo! My mothers, sister and daughters for showing us the way when everything seemed to have been lost. A thousand salutes to you.
“tundī-e-bād-e-muḳhālif se na ghabrā ai uqaab
ye to chaltī hai tujhe ūñchā uḌāne ke liye”