On 15th December 2019, a group of 15–20 local women initiated a peaceful sit-in protest who refused to leave no matter any circumstances occur, by blocking a Kalindi Kunj road, which is a Muslim Community dominated neighborhood of now famously known Shaheen Bagh in southeast Delhi, in response to the Citizenship Amendment Act which was brought in law on 11th December 2019 and also the police brutality and intervention against the students of Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi. Within the 10 days of protest, the sit-in grew to approximately 1 km, as these women started setting up makeshift shelters, bedding, toilets, water, and other facilities.
Not just Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, but many other sit-in protests round the clock took place, women came from far away places of India like Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh, to support these protestors in Delhi. Even in Delhi, many sit-in protests were initiated with the motivation from these women of Shaheen Bagh, at locations like Hauz Rani, Inderlok, Khajuri Khas, Kardampuri, Seelampur, even when Delhi was shivering under 2 degree Celsius cold temperatures, these women stayed there 24x7.
Shaheen Bagh surely reflected the irony of women in India, where it is believed that they are mostly grounded, but they forced people to see them beyond their Burqa and recognize that Indian Women were capable of asserting themselves politically. Even though women had always been there, even though if we talk about the freedom struggle of India, when most of the influential men were in prison, women stood up and took charge of the struggle even then. Women played an important role even after India attained freedom but largely they disappeared, From 1989–1970, 4.3% of candidates and 70% of electoral races had no women, women’s organizations in India first began to emerge in the early 1900s and later in the 1970s after a period of limited activity from 1950s to 1970s.
But with Shaheen Bagh, women came out and reclaimed their place in the world, they came from secluded and protected existence especially the Muslim community, and interacted with the world which was very different from them! As the protest grew, different news channels and International media started reporting it.
SUPPORT ACROSS THE WORLD
Student activists Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid came in support at the protest site and slogans of ‘Azadi’ were heard again. Kanhaiya Kumar also said ‘ab sirf Delhi mein Shaheen Bagh nahi hai, Pura Hindustan ek bagh hai our aap say Shaheen hai’.
Permanent Free Food Service (Langar) at Shaheen Protest Site.
Food Langars were also set up by the Sikh community of India, as more people from Punjab and other cities started coming in, without any exception of religion, caste, creed, or gender. Some famous musicians, celebrities, comedians also visited the protest site and performed acts and gave speeches on stage.
WHAT ARE THE OPINION OF THESE PROTESTORS:
“In our Muslim Community Women are supposed to stay under niqaab/burqa, but today we have come outside of that cloistered existence, only to bring the change, it is also believed that the shadow of an unknown man on a Muslim women is forbidden, but we have an aim, and that aim is to make the government take back the NRC and CAA law, we won’t leave till they take it back,” says a protester to NDTV.
One the face that stood out of this protest was of an 83-year-old elderly women Bilkis Bano, also known as ‘Shaheen Bagh Ki Daadi’, she was named as one of the top 100 influential people in the world, in Times Magazines, and another irony here is that Mr. Narender Modi is also one of them. She was among the thousands of protesters but became the face of the Shaheen Bagh protest, but she really never cared about her identity, “She is doing this for her children, and won’t end the sit-in protest till the government takes the CAA & NRC Bill takes back” Bilkis said. She was also present there when an attacker open fired barely 50 meters away from the main stage in February 2019, she then said- “Even these bullets don’t scare us”.
“I will sit here till Blood Stops flowing in my veins so the children of her country breathe the air of justice and equality,” Bilkis said to Rana Ayyub.
Huma Khatun says to BBC: “They get motivated to see these women at Shaheen Bagh, so now they have also come here to protest against CAA and NRC which is a discriminatory act against Muslim Community. They’ll ask for our identity that we belong to India, we kiss the ground 5 times here while reading namaz everyday, our identity is Jama Masjid, that tells that we belong here, our ancestors are from here”
A CELEBRATION OF ART AND CULTURE
When these women sat down in cold and kept the struggle ongoing songs like ‘Hum dekhenge’ written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz was widely sung during those hard times.
Modern Day poet Aamir Aziz wrote a wonderful poem ‘Sab Yaad Rakha Jaega’ which you can listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHk_5gEXDY0
Another verse from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s treasures of poetry that was recited there many time was:
“बोल कि लब आज़ाद हैं तेरे बोल ज़बाँ अब तक तेरी है तेरा सुत्वाँ जिस्म है तेरा बोल कि जाँ अब तक तेरी है”
A 40 feet tall iron Indian demographic structure was also installed which says ‘We the people of India reject CAA-NPR-NRC.India Gates replicate installation was installed at protest site where names of the people who died during the protest were written on it as an tribute.A kid reading a book at Fatima Sheikh Savitri Phule Library, Shaheen Bagh which had plethora of books and reading material to educate people and protestors.
These women protested for 101 days, despite the harsh weather conditions, gunshots fired, communal riots, university attacks, and hate speeches by Politicians, but the site was evacuated on 23rd March 2020 by Delhi Police in the wake of Full lockdown in the country due to the spread of coronavirus pandemic.