The introduction of CAA close to a month ago has sent waves of tremor across the country. It only multiplied when Home Minister Amit Shah was heard saying that NRC will also be implemented countrywide and there are talks of NPR being launched. This gave birth to the second edition of women's march this year with the inclusion of transgender and queer community as well today on the auspicious day of the birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule.
Hundreds of people gather to march
At Mandi House area of New Delhi women, trans and queer folks belonging to various collectives gathered together at 11.30 am to start a march towards Jantar Mantar - a very famous protest destination in the national capital. As the heterogeneous crowd starts to move forward, numerous chants against fascism, citizenship amendment act, national register of citizens, national population register, islamophobia start to fill the air. The long march of people is categorised into various smaller bunch of people belonging to different communities - sex workers, people of lower strata of the society, student groups, Sikhs, trans groups, queer groups and Muslim communities. This represented the diverse voices being raised against the new laws formed by the government.
“We are poor people, we need jobs, god forbid if we are not able to show the documents tomorrow would that make us refugees too? We have lived here since generations,” says 50-year-old Vandana of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan to SheThePeople.TV. Vandana, a Dalit woman, is scared. “People from my community are still cleaning the sewers and they have been continually marginalised for 70 years. Today, the government has found a new way to victimise us further. We say don't divide the people of India further. We should be working towards erasing the divides already existing in the society, why accentuate it further?” she asks.
The demonstration at Jantar Mantar also saw speeches from human rights lawyer, Vrinda Grower, acclaimed feminist activist Kamla Bhasin, student leader Kawalpreet Kaur, a theatrical performance by Maya Krishna Rao etc as the eclectic crowd cheered them on.
Trans and queer will be further marginalised
Pavel, a transwoman who is originally from Manipur but has been living in Delhi for many years now, also marched in solidarity with her trans brothers and sisters. She opines, “We need to stand up against CAA that differentiates between people in the name of religion and identity. It also adversely impacts the trans and queer community as a lot of us have to leave our biological parents because of abuse at home. When our families dissociate themselves from us or throw us out of their house because they don't understand our identity, we lose many of our documents. If our family doesn't support us, then we don't have any relation with them. Now to get those papers, we will have to go back which in most of the cases is not possible.
Secondly, a lot of folks from our communities don't end up finishing school, graduation etc. so they lose out on those papers as well. In such a situation, how are we supposed to show our papers? To reject this arbitrary law, we all need to come together and protest against it. Now is not the time to stay silent.”
As the march moves forward sloganeering war cry quotes from famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's work, chanting “Inquilab Zindabad and Aurtein uthi nahin toh zulm badhta jayega” (If women don't stand up then abuse will continue to increase) etc. , all this while surrounded by male and female cops alike. Around 12.30 pm the march culminates at Jantar Mantar where the crowd settles and leaders from different communities take the stage to put forth their views.
Searing account of Rafia from Shaheen Bagh
One of the speakers was a woman from Shaheen Bagh, her name is Rafia, and she shares a scathing account of the police crackdown in Jamia University on December 13 and 15 when she was also present at the site. She recalls how her brother became a victim of the attack by the police as he called her to check if she was safe meanwhile she hears him scream and then the phone goes dead. “None can understand my pain when I couldn't do anything to know whether my brother was alive or dead. At 11 that night I got to know that my brother has been hospitalised but for a whole day after that, I wasn't even allowed to meet him. That day I pledged that I would stand up against such brutal attacks against my community,” says a teary-eyed Rafia. If she dies in the fight, she says she will have her young children fight against this brutality and marginalisation, she pledges.
Will the march have an impact?
While this isn't the first time a women's march has been held across the country as a similar march also happened in February this year. At that time, women marched against bigotry in governance and mainly to deter the BJP government from making a reappearance which didn't happen. In fact, BJP was elected with an even bigger mandate than 2014. On asking about the significance of such marches against the interest of the government, Kavita Krishnan debates, “The beauty of a democracy is that it is not static. People make their choices based on different criteria. People may have voted for Modi-Shah but people haven't voted for such disenfranchisement. They have not voted for unemployment and they have not voted to be turned refugees in their own country.
A lot of people are waking up now even if they may not have realised the complete strength of what has happened to them over the last few years. The issue is not whether the government is going to bow down in front of people, the point is people are not going to bow down in front of this government and that in itself is a victory.”
“We are poor people, we need jobs, god forbid if we are not able to show the documents tomorrow would that make us refugees too? We have lived here since generations,” says 50-year-old Vandana
Women march across the country
The demonstration at Jantar Mantar also saw speeches from human rights lawyer, Vrinda Grower, acclaimed feminist activist Kamla Bhasin, student leader Kawalpreet Kaur, a theatrical performance by Maya Krishna Rao etc as the eclectic crowd cheered them on. Leaders from queer and trans collectives also raised their voice to defy the newly-formed law. As this march took place simultaneously similar marches were also planned in various other parts of the country including Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Ranchi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Devarkonda and Nalgonda districts.