Shaheen Bagh is an important chapter for the women agitators
Shaheen Bagh will be remembered as the loudest voice of the women protagonists in times to come <b></b>
Going by the current discourse on women's rights, you could possibly rate them as 'illiterates'. Their beliefs include that 'the women should return home by evening'; Allah Ta'ala has given women something fragile that has to be covered while moving out of the house; Paying attention to home is important; Divorce is a mutual issue between a woman and a man; 'New age children are spoiled and they do not listen at all. So remaining quiet is preferable' and so on.
However, they have come out on the road for the rights of these 'spoiled children' and say, "They are the way they are, but we cannot see them running from pillar to the post. Most of the people in the 120 crore population are poor. When there is rain or flood, they often don't have even a piece of cloth on their bodies. Where are they supposed to bring the proof of citizenship from? And, in the lack of proof, they may have to live like refugees. We are fighting for that. Tomorrow our children should not say: 'Our parents did nothing for us.' Our children must live as freely as we have been living here from '47. May Allah T'aala save everyone from this mess!"
Fifty-year-old Mehrunnisa has not read Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own'. It is not even in her mind to have a separate room of her own. But she is fighting for whole country - fighting for that Article of the Constitution which gives everyone the right to equality, without discrimination of faith, creed or religion. The same right which the home minister of the country has proudly tried to undermine. She rues that the majority of those having been sent to the Parliament welcomed this shameful provision by tapping the table. Mehrunnisa, who used to prefer being quiet before her children, is today vocal against the Home Minister. She wants the Home Minister to get the disputed law repealed as swiftly as it was passed in the Parliament. Only then will she take food. She has been on hunger strike since 31st December. She takes only tea or juice throughout the day. No food. Before her, Jainul was on hunger strike. But he fell ill and had to end his fast. Since then, Mehrunnisa has been on the forefront. It has weakened her body. Now she doesn't raise slogans. Propped up with quilts, she sits on a cot. But her courage is intact. She says, "Be it rains or a storm, we will not leave here until the government listens to us."
In the evening of the 77th day of the protests, it did start raining. Then it turned into lashing rains. Water ran down the torn tarpaulin covering the place of protest. It forced the protestors to move to drier corners but it could not make these women abandon the place or the protest. These mothers, fighting for the rights of their children, have stayed there.
It is worth being recalled that all such large-scale movements for women's rights were started by ordinary women. The movement of women factory workers who fought for equal wages in the US in 1857 is today celebrated as Women's Day all over the world. These common women may not have attended the gender-equality conventions in 1975, 1985 and again in 1995, but the movement grew stronger only due to the hard work of these women. In 1857, the queen who went into battle with her little son tied on her back may not have raised voice against the age gap in her marriage, but fighting for the rights of her son, the queen of Jhansi led the Indian freedom struggle. Today, the women of Shaheen Bagh have once again proved that women take up the front when the men kneel down in surrender. No one is a better warrior than mothers when it comes to the rights of their children.
The women persisting in Shaheen Bagh are mothers fighting for the rights of their children. Shaheen Bagh will be remembered as the strongest voice of the women protagonists in times to come. These very ordinary-looking women have made Shaheen Bagh a 'Remarkable Line'. While discussing this epoch, you would need to pass through it.
Shaheen Bagh area doesn't only connect Delhi with Noida, but it also separates voice for rights from silent consents. You may be in favour of this or against it, but you cannot ignore the spirit of these women. Thousands of fists have sprung up in demanding rights.
When this correspondent got there, a prolific speaker was addressing the gathering. But Madina's eyes were stuck at the picture of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, hanging high on the backdrop. I ask, "Who is he?" Madina immediately replies, "Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, who wrote our constitution." "What is the constitution… Have you ever read it?" is my next question. Madina, who remains busy in upbringing her three children, immediately responds with, "Our country runs on the Constitution. It should remain like that. It gives equal rights to everyone and we are fighting for that right."
She relates, "When I came to Delhi from Badaun after marriage, I knew nothing except household skills." Even before joining the sit-in at Shaheen Bagh, I didn't know much about Ambedkar sahib. But here every one talked about him and the constitution. I was shy to ask anyone about him. Then, I asked my daughter. The daughter told me everything. I love my daughter very much. My parents too loved me a lot. But after my marriage, they sort of forgot me. After marriage, daughters are remembered only occasionally. But, I wouldn't do this with my daughter. We have bought a little land in Palwal and we will give it to our daughter. They should also get equal rights in the property. I come here every day so that my daughter does not have to be a refugee due to some paper in future."
Sitting next to Medina is Naseeban who hails from Bulandshahr. Among the women wrapped up in burqa, Nasiban has taken only a dupatta on her shoulders. When pointed out, she says, "I am unmarried, so I don't care. Nasiban attended school only till fifth class. Then she suffered from fits. Her five siblings got educated, but she could not. She isn't very hopeful about her marriage too. Here in Delhi, she lives with her brother and sister-in-law. She is afraid of the time when there would be a need for proving citizenship. How would this sick girl find necessary papers? She is scared of a possible relocation. That is why she comes here every day to fight for her rights.
Saira Bano's eyes peep through the burqa as she turns forward beads on tasveeh in the hand. With anger in her eyes, she says, "He (the PM) had ample time to welcome Trump, but has no time to talk his 'sisters'. He showed such concern for us in the name of triple talaq. It seemed as if we had found a real brother who would rid us of our troubles. Where is that brother now? Why is he unable to ensure the future of our children." Then she prays, "May Allah Ta'ala save us all from this trouble."
Asma is sporting tricolour stickers on her cheeks. She is happy with these stickers and a headband with anti-CAA, NRC and NPR slogan on the forehead. Around 9 p.m., some people have come with packets of Biryani. Some women run to that side while many others remain unmoved with the belief that no one could take away their due. Amid traditions of public feasting at Langar and Bhandara, 'Biryani' is being used as an abusive term. Some people talk of Biryani as if it was a bribe rather than a food item. Asma has brought two packets, one for herself and one for me. I refuse it with folded hands saying, "I'm not a non-vegetarian." Innocent Asma suggests, "Eat only rice and leave the meat." I have no answer except smiling over it. She refers to her religious learning that it would be a sin for her if she eats it and I don't.
Then I move over to the domineering grandmother of Shaheen Bagh. I remind her of women's plights in being left behind on economic, social and political fronts. I poke her: "The movement got started by the women but men have hijacked the stage. Women get credit neither in the home nor in the public". She retorts, "Men can't equal the women. They are never trustworthy. It is Kalyuga. Men have given a thousand problems to the women, but at this moment, we are not thinking about all that. When it comes to the rights of children, I am neither a woman nor a man. I am the progeny of Adam… a human being. And, I have to fight to save humanity. Governments keep changing. We don't want to get into politics. But what will happen if the government works with a regressive mindset? Today neither the government is with us, nor the police. Our CM Kejriwal is also not with us. Even the Supreme Court is postponing the hearing. In such a situation, what can we do except raising the voice? This is our last weapon."