The Future Is Female: Women at the forefront of fighting for a better India
Here are some of the future women leaders of India. These women have shown their mettle in the face of adversity. They stood up against state repression and some of them went to jail but remained firm
The recent political turmoil and pressing societal and environmental issues have thrown up some brave, promising women leaders who have it in them to challenge the authority of any kind for the sake of justice. What makes them special is that they fight for others’ rights, not just for their own.
Safoora Zargar, 27, is an M.Philstudent at Jamia Milia Islamia and was a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a student group which organized peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Delhi. She was slapped with the stringent UAPA by Delhi Police. She was three months pregnant at time of arrest, an action which caused widespread outrage from civil society who called it State oppression against dissenters. She was granted bail after over three months of incarceration.
Indian media only came to know about 24-year-old Dalit labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur after Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris Tweeted about her demanding her release. Nodeep was arrested on January 12, 2021 after a demonstration in Haryana’s Kundli industrial area where she was leading various protests against issues affecting labour rights. She was recently granted bail after over one and a half month in jail where she was allegedly tortured.
Disha Ravi is a 23-year-old Bangalore based climate change activist and the founder of the Indian branch of Friday For Future, an international students collective and movement led by Greta Thunberg. She was arrested from her home by Delhi Police who have accused her of sedition, criminal conspiracy and other charges for merely editing an online toolkit shared by Thunberg on how to support the farmers’ movement. Such toolkits or Google documents is one of the most common technology used by millions of campaign organizers in both private, public and non-profit sector. Charges against Disha were found highly improbable and without a shred of evidence by a Sessions Court in Delhi which granted her bail after 10 days of incarceration.
Another strong woman voice from the anti-CAA protests is Ishrat Jahan, a practising advocate and a former Congress Councillor. Post Delhi riots, she was accused of giving provocative speeches and arrested under the UAPA laws. In May 2020, she was granted bail for brief period to get married and is presently incarcerated at Mandoli jail. In December 2020, she told the court that she was being regularly beaten up in jail by other inmates who also called her terrorist. The court noted that she was in “state of utter fear” and ordered the jail authorities to ensure her safety.
Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita
Natasha and Devangana, both in their early 30s, are the founders of Pinjra Tod, a women’s rights collective. The Pinjra Tod movement was started as an informal coalition around 2015 to question separate gender biased hostel rules which impose curfew timings and other restrictions like visiting the library at night only on women. They were significant in organizing the anti-CAA protests in Delhi’s Jaffrabad and were arrested after the Delhi riots and booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Aishe Ghosh is an M.Phil student in School of International Studies at JNU and the current Students Union President. Her name emerged in national media in January 2020 in the aftermath of the sudden attacks on students and teaches at JNU campus in which she was gravely injured and was admitted at AIIMS. Aishe is now a leading voice amongst the Left-leaning thinkers who regularly question the ruling regime.
Shehla Rashid, along with her fellow student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, is part of the earliest batch of student leaders who emerged as a formidable political force against the right wing nationalist government. In February 2016, she gave an inspiring speech at a protest gathering of around 4,000 JNU students and teachers who were demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, the then president of the JNU students’ union who was arrested on sedition charges for certain sloganeering. Since then, Shehla has become one of the strongest youth voice and inspired hundreds to
Lubna Sayed Qadri
Lubna Sayed Qadri, 30, is a Kashmiri human-rights and RTI activist. She represented Kashmir at the United Nations meeting that took place in South Korea in 2019.