“If not now, then when? Why wait for political formations to organize a demonstration? Why can’t all of us as citizens repulsed by the violence get together in protest at the earliest, next week at Jantar Mantar under the banner – Not in my Name,” wrote Saba Dewan on June 24 that began a mass movement against attacks on minorities with the hastag #NotInMyName.

The Independent filmmaker was shocked – as everyone else in the country — by the mob lynching of 16-year-old Junaid Khan in Delhi NCR, which led her to initiate this protest which has now unified the country against any kind of discrimination.

The Not In My Name protest was held in Delhi at Jantar Mantar on 28 June.  Several hundreds of people joined in solidarity against bigotry and intolerance against minorities across the country. The impact that this campaign had and is continuing to have on the masses is what made Saba believe that ‘all is not lost’, as she wrote in one of her Fabebook posts.

Saba talked to SheThePeople.TV about #NotInMyName.

What is the genesis of #NotInMyName?

Saba: The term itself is one that was coined in the 1970s in America against its war against Vietnam. It is an old slogan which was used extensively and then it became a part of political parlance. So when I was traumatized by Junaid’s lynching, then it came to my mind that why not call it ‘Not in my Name’.

It’s the name that allows solidarity, for people to speak up for their fellow citizens and says ‘I am fighting for you’. It is an anti-state statement telling the state that what you are doing is not in my name.

Maya Krishna Rao at NotInMyName
Maya Krishna Rao at NotInMyName (Pic by Sanjukta Basu)

What triggered the protest?

Saba: Over the past few years, one has been watching with mounting sense of horror and outrage a sort of systemic violence that has been unleashed on minorities, particularly Muslims and Dalits. In my view, systemic violence is a daily experience for the minorities that has become the norm in recent times.

There is rampant discrimination in terms of housing in middle and upper-middle class enclaves in metros. Then the attacks on Dalits and Muslims on this whole issue of beef, which is a manufactured issue. And then at the far end of the spectrum is mob killings that we have been witnessing continuously. And it is these concerns that required facing it from the front and squarely.

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“It is a huge percentage of women that have brought together this protest in various cities across the country.”

What made it go viral and transform into a mass movement?

Saba: It is actually the deep revulsion against discrimination of our fellow citizens. India is equally theirs and anyone else’s. And I think we, as citizens, need to protect and safeguard the rights of other citizens.

Not In My Name
Not In My Name (Pic by Sanjukta Basu)

Firstly, it is the hashtag itself that caught the attention of the masses. It allows itself to be owned by anyone and everyone and it can hold different meanings for different people. For example, for practising Hindus, it is about dissociating and protesting against the current state-manufactured scenario of mob lynching. The Muslim bastis in Delhi are doing their own protest, so now it has crossed the ‘elite’ boundaries and gone to Mohalla level. Even political parties are welcome to join in but you come as citizens and leave your flags and banners behind.

The protest has also crossed geographic boundaries and moved from India to other countries like the US, Pakistan etc. In Pakistan, they are talking about attacks on minorities in their own country. Even practicing Muslims are being killed under blasphemy laws there, so it has taken various meanings altogether.

The people who spoke at the protest in Delhi were actually family members of Junaid and Pehlu Khan’s villages. Because it is time for people to hear Muslim voices.

“This is an assertion of brotherhood-sisterhood but most importantly, citizenship is how we have articulated it. We are trying to say that the attack on minorities is actually an attack on the constitution”- Saba Dewan 

What has been women’s role in the protest?

Saba: Today, women are at the helm of all the protests that are happening and are really reclaiming streets. As the protests have been organised in many cities, several of them have been started by women. It is a huge percentage of women that have brought together this protest in various cities across the country.

What do you have to say about the slight criticism the name and the protest has garnered?

Saba: This is an assertion of brotherhood-sisterhood but most importantly, citizenship is how we have articulated it. We are trying to say that the attack on minorities is actually an attack on the constitution.

It is rather sad that the people who are enjoying the criticism is the right-wing. My only suggestion is that if the nay-sayers have a problem with the name of the protest, then they can start something else and we will join them. Because the need of the hour today for everyone is to protest against the onslaughts.

What lies ahead in the future for #NotInMyName?

A campaign, however successful, cannot become a mass movement unless it is sustained and shows tangible results. It is wonderful the kind of consciousness it is raising. The way people are reading it and responding to it in itself is a wonderful takeaway. But yeah, the future is most important now and I think all of us collectively need to think about it. We in Delhi definitely are. From yesterday itself, we are back to planning and brainstorming and we are working on it.

Feature picture credit- Centre For South Asia