It’s the 26th day of protest at New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area where women have led the fight against CAA-NRC from the front, all the while resisting being bogged down by police and other political fringe elements on a daily basis. These women are not just persistent but also vociferous in what they stand for and claim to not back down until their demands of revoking CAA and NRC are met. One among these numerous women is 51-year-old Gul Bano who came to Shaheen Bagh around 29 years ago. “I grew up in Mumbai and my matrimonial family is from Amethi so I have experienced the different sides of being a Muslim in a secular India,” says Bano.
Recounting her childhood in Mumbai, Bano says, “I lived among Hindus in a Hindu-dominated colony. My father was in a government job so we lived in a chaal on the third floor with eight quarters, out of which seven belonged to Hindu families and we were the only Muslim family. On Diwali, we were welcomed in their homes, whereas they celebrated Eid with us. We never even realized there was a difference between us.”
Bano recalls how a Hindu woman, who she used to lovingly call “Tai“, would keep a full month of Rozas. “She would bathe before us during Fajr (early morning prayer or the first of the five prayers offered by practicing Muslims) and then she would give us one rupee as Eidi. Those times bring such happy memories back,” Bano recalls, revealing that her Tai belonged to the Kollam tribe.
“She would bless us on Eid and then on Diwali we would go to her house and she would make Kalonji for us. I have grown up with sweet memories of a non-communal surrounding. So these conversations around citizenship based on religious identity hurt me a lot. Whenever there’s an election is close by, politicians try to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims. But let me tell them, people have woken up now. We are all one.”
Bano also speaks on the sensitive issue of the felling of Babri Masjid and the growing dialogue on the establishment of a Mandir in Ayodhya. “We don’t want anything in exchange for violence. Whatever the verdict, we just wanted peace. So what if the Hindus won it? They are our brothers too and a place of worship remains a place of worship no matter what religion it preaches,” she asserts.
Bano recalls how a Hindu woman, who she used to lovingly call “Tai“, would keep a full month of Rozas. “She would bathe before us during Fajr (early morning prayer or the first of the five prayers offered by practising Muslims) and then she would give us one rupee as Eidi. Those times bring such happy memories back,”
She also condemns the violence that the youth of the country has been enduring in the last one month. She asks, why isn’t any action being taken against the perpetrators of violence in Jamia, AMU and now JNU? “Today we fear if our children will even come back home alive or not after they go off to study, one shouldn’t have to pay such a huge price for dissent,” Bano laments for the injured students. However, as she sat through day one of the Shaheen Bagh and continues to stay put, when asked what will she do if the police come to vacate the women of Shaheen Bagh, she responds, “They have already come with an intention to attack once before but we didn’t say anything, we just kept sitting. We want to see what they can do. All the women sat in a line with our heads bowed down.”
It is women of Shaheen Bagh like Gul Bano, who are not only leading the current narrative of dissent in India but also exemplify the quite resistance that inspires everyone else to keep fighting for what they believe in.