Baatein Aman ki, leaves a significant trail throughout the country

Baatein Aman ki started with five rallies from four corners and one central point of the country, with a message of peace.

Baatein Aman ki, leaves a significant trail throughout the country

Asheesh Mamgain

There is hardly anything in common between Shaheena Shabir, 20, (a BSC student from Tangdar, Kashmir), Madhu Ben Chainwa, 42, (a dalit social worker from Banaskantha, Gujrat) and Sheela, 45, (a bank manager from Kanjangad, Kerala). Being a woman and a concerned citizen was enough to bring them and scores like them together to chart out a common course throughout the length and the breadth of the nation.

Under the banner of Baatein Aman ki, five yatras (rallies) started from four corners and one central point of the country, with a message of peace. Each segment of the yatra was made up of 25 women each, coming from different parts of the country. This meant, for example, a yatra segment starting from Kerala and going through Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, had participants from many different states of the nation. Starting simultaneously from Kerala (Kasargod), Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari), Assam (Jorhat), Kashmir (Srinagar) and Delhi on September 21, 2018, the yatras covered around 200 cities, before culminating on October 13, at Parliament Street, New Delhi.

Shabnam Hashmi, a well-known social activist, one of the organisers of the yatra, says, “The yatra was planned basically to break this grip of fear and hate which has enveloped the nation in the last few years, especially since the present Government came to power. In order to counter this atmosphere, our appeal was for love, peace and upholding the values of India’s constitution.” She added, “It was a huge task and with no funds to go around, it seemed impossible to execute. But somehow we pulled it off.”

During the Yatra, the women not only shared their common concerns but also brought the people of other regions face to face with the harsh realities back home. It was a whirlwind tour, with each rally’s participants attending anything between three to five programmes in different cities each day. The uniqueness and the strength of the yatra was the participation of the local social, civil and cultural organisations, who were tasked with hosting the yatra, organising a cultural programme highlighting the message and then boarding the yatris for the night. National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) was one of the participating organisations. Annie Raja, General Secretary, NFIW says, “In the past few years, there has been a frontal attack on the Indian Constitution and on the freedom of expression, which impacts every woman. Baatein Aman ki campaign reached out to the people across India to safeguard constitutional rights and to build a more peaceful society.”

Sheela was a member of the organising committee in Kanjangad, Kerala. “The atmosphere of intolerance and fear gripping the country is a concern that we all share. That is why when the call for this rally was given, we immediately decided to be a part of it,” she said.

The rally, in fact, achieved much more than it actually planned to achieve. Like it presented Shaheena Shabir her first opportunity to step out of her native Kashmir. She travelled all the way from Kashmir to Kasaragod, Kerala, to be part of the rally, as she had chosen to start with the Kerala leg of the rally. Says she, “It was absolutely amazing to meet people from different parts of India. Everything from food to geography to climate was new for me. But the best part was the way I was treated with so much warmth and love wherever we went,” said Shaheena. And they covered a lot of ground during the 25-day long rally. Between them, all the five segments of rally covered all the Indian states. Madhu Ben Chainwa, 42, a travelling participant from Gujarat, wanted to bring out the story of Gujarat. “We are working for the education of the weaker section of the society. No matter what the Government claims, not much is being done for the education of the poor,” said Madhu.

The programme organised at each city where the yatra stopped turned into a celebration of India’s syncretic culture, expression of common concerns and an underlining of the right to dissent. Poems were read, songs were sung, skits performed and musical instruments played. The highlight though was the enthusiastic participation of the local youth and women organisations.

The travelling participants of the rally had among them some performing artists as well, who used their art to convey the message of love and at times protest too. Lilly (32) from Tamil Nadu, who played the Paravi, a folk percussion instrument, was one such artist. “I play my instrument on different occasions, including marriage functions. But the best is when I play it to advocate a cause, like during this rally. That is why I volunteered to be part of this rally. All I can say is that playing during this rally was an amazing experience for me,” said Lilly.

Each programme ended with all the participants taking a pledge to stand by the values of the Constitution of India.

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