Sadaf Jafar: Underdog or a dark horse, she is the talking point

No woman has ever won an assembly election from Lucknow Central constituency, the conservative heart of the city. But Sadaf Jafar, theatre artist, activist and Congress candidate remains undaunted

Sadaf Jafar: Underdog or a dark horse, she is the talking point

Garima Sadhwani

I t was going to be an uphill task in any case as a Congress candidate in Uttar Pradesh, where the party has been out of power for over three decades. But even more formidable is the fact that no woman has ever won from the constituency.

In the last election in 2017 out of the 17 candidates who contested from this constituency, only one was a woman and she polled 104 votes. Remind her of this past and she flashes an amused smile and says things are changing for the better.

Jafar was at the forefront of the antiCAA movement in Lucknow. She was arrested when she was streaming live on Facebook outsiders who resorted to violence during a demonstration. She was actually asking policemen why they were not taking action against the stone pelters when she was first manhandled and then taken to the police station. Following more beating and punching she was remanded to jail. She emerged after several months, vowing to continue the fight and won over the trust of people

When she goes campaigning, she sees how unhappy people are with the current BJP regime. “I sat with the women at Ghanta Ghar during the CAA protests. They know what we had to go through,” she reflects. The injustice and the suffering made her stronger, she believes and made her aware of what’s at stake for the general public.

Ask her what the issues are in her constituency and she has a whole list ready. Shortage of drinking water, a proper sewage, garbage not getting picked up, few government schools, few mohalla clinics, understaffed hospitals, no streetlights, women’s safety, no accountability from police officials betraying a mindset dictated by “badla lenge” “thoko” “thaein thaein”. The biggest issue of them all, she believes, is unplanned development.

That is what happens when elected representatives don’t take out time to understand the needs of people. “People might want a public school, but I decide to build a flyover because I’ll also profit from it by way of cuts and commissions,” she explains, adding, “Planned development is not even difficult. All you have to do is hold janta darbars and address the issues people who elected you face.”

Commenting on the hijab row in Karnataka, Jafar says it’s unfortunate how efforts are being made to keep those girls out of schools, for whose education innumerable battles have been fought, countless sacrifices made. She adds, “Right to Education is Right to Education. Today you have a problem with the hijab, tomorrow you’ll have a problem with turbans, the day after that you’ll have a problem with us attending schools and colleges.”

What she wears should be of no concern to others, she says. Communal polarisation is a smokescreen designed to hide the government’s failures from the people, to hide the fact that when the pandemic was raging, “the government didn’t help you, but strangers, whose religion and caste you didn’t know, did”.

“Every morning there is a new WhatsApp forward telling people that men in this one community are marrying 15 women, giving birth to 20 children, and that only in a matter of time, the government, the MLAs and MLCs will all be from their community. But who has the money to raise 20 kids? Who has enough food and supplies for that? Economy toh kharab hai,” she scoffs.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines