For over 20-days now, women have been sitting in at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, morning and night, in the bitter cold, to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. We at SheThePeople.TV asked women from India what they thought about this protest and did they feel that Shaheen Bagh could become the turning point in Indian electoral politics. Here’s what they had to say:
Filmmaker Vinta Nanda says, “Shaheen Bagh is the microcosm of the modern, secular, inclusive, participative, pluralistic Muslim ‘assertion’ in India for the first time since we got freedom from British rule in 1947. More than the Hindus who were legitimised Indians as a result of partition, it was the Muslims who chose to stay on this side of the divide even after a separate country was carved out for them and put to them on offer.
In stark contrast to how women are perceived as being the weaker sex, the protests in Shaheen Bagh are being led by Muslim women – Leher Sethi.
Nanda adds that without the minorities, of which Muslims comprise the largest section, India ceases to be a democracy and therefore “becomes a Hindu Rashtra leading up to a failed state.” Says she, “We must count our blessings that Shaheen Bagh has happened because if it had not, we were at the precipice that spelt r-e-g-r-e-s-s-I-o-n.”
While author Sudha Menon is of the opinion that, “It has the potential to be a turning point if the tempo keeps up.”
Archana Pai Kulkarni, Books Editor, believes that it takes a lot for people to actually step out of their homes and take to the streets, as they are too preoccupied with the business of living. “The sheer numbers—gender, age, religion no bar—that have turned up braving inclement weather and police action, and staying put despite being told to disperse, prove that the cause has great resonance, and that the democratic spirit is alive and kicking. It’s a strong message of intolerance towards divisive hate politics and discrimination, and will certainly impact the opinions and views of people across the country, and will force politicians to introspect and change course. Political change happens through the influence of such social movements on electoral politics, and I’m hopeful that that is how it will pan out. Politicians who ignore it will be doing so at their peril,” says Kulkarni.
“Shaheen Bagh has brought to the foreground a unique spirit and solidarity and has become emblematic of both in a way that we have not seen in this city in a very, very long time. That is bound to have consequences for those who make it their business to divide and rule.” Arpita Das, Publisher Yoda Press.
In a country where women do not have documents or property in their name, it will be a difficult task for them to prove their citizenship. But in spite of being labelled the weaker sex, the women have come out in huge numbers to register their protest.
Leher Sethi, events professional says, “In stark contrast to how women are perceived as being the weaker sex, the protests in Shaheen Bagh are being led by Muslim women; with women occupying centre stage as they lead the protest, while men guard the periphery. This is the new India that will guard the values India stands for. And these protests will go down in history as a classic example for when the Indian public stood up to oppression.”
While the protests are important, some feel it is too localised to make an impact on national electoral politics.
“While I am completely in awe of the citizen’s movement there, and support them, is too localised to say it will be a turning point in electoral politics. But overall, the entirety of the anti CAA protests, including Shaheen Bagh, just might be the beginning of a change,” says Kiranjeet Chaturvedi, Writing coach and mentor.
“It takes a lot for people to actually step out of their homes and take to the streets, as they are too preoccupied with the business of living. The sheer numbers—gender, age, religion no bar—that have turned up braving inclement weather and police action, and staying put despite being told to disperse, prove that the cause has great resonance, and that the democratic spirit is alive and kicking. – Archana Pai Kulkarni
The protests at Shaheen Bagh may or may not turn out to be a turning point in Indian politics, but what is vital is that women who have taken to the streets have shown the rest of the country how to protest peacefully, and be heard. That even in times of despair democracy is still alive and kicking, where every citizen be it women, transgender people, people from the marginalised community all get a say in the politics of this country.
Picture credit: Indian Express