Shaheen Bagh movement is an inspiration to understand peaceful democratic protests in India

– Vidya Bhushan Rawat

It is always inspiring to hear women at Shaheen Bagh as their spirit and energy still is an envy for all. Most of the time a movement more than 65 days old would get tired as the government or the critique of Shaheen Bagh would have thought but to their disappointment, the unity and fraternity at Shaheen Bagh is more inspiring and a great learning for all. This protest movement has created new hope and dynamic leadership where the women are the leader. Today, two interlocutors of the Supreme Court, Sadhna Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde, both senior advocates, were there to discuss the issue with the people. Sadhna spoke initially and her tone was quite aggressive. We wont talk to the entire people. We would only like to speak to 20 or a group of people ‘appointed’ by you. Other people too have right and the traffic is getting disturbed. We would like to see the narrow lanes and so on. Sanjay Hegde was seasoned as usual as we know his commitments too but then the mandate for the interlocutors is limited to persuade the people to either finish the Dharana or shift somewhere else, a venue of their choice. He also promised that there are so many good willed advocates that they all will fight for their rights and he hoped that Supreme Court will ensure protection of our rights.

Whatever the interlocutors suggest but there mandate is limited to persuade the women to call off their Dharana or shift to other venue but for the women it is the issue of their life and death. A peep into the conversation will show how determined the women are and what is the level of their anxiety.

Many of them spoke and I can vouch they were simply extraordinary. I could see how well they articulated. Even in the heat of arguments when the public were openly saying that any interlocutor will have to speak in front of all and not with selected few. Stood up a woman and said, ” We are thankful to the honorable Supreme Court to have given this a serious thought but we are disturbed when some people feel that we are creating obstacles in traffic. When Mahatma Gandhi fought for our freedom, we are sure, there would have been many obstacles, many time, people would have called for bandh and strike. When we sit for the bigger cause, these obstacles are nothing. Why would we create obstacles. The question is why does not the government listen to us and strike the CAA-NRC-NPR ? ”

Another woman said that people are accusing us that “we are bringing our children but who knows what happen to them at home. We live in deep distress. Our children watch us in distress. They know the deep anxiety that we are going through. How can they term that we are bringing our children here” ?

And the best came from a woman who responded to ‘shifting of venue’ to elsewhere. Look, she she said, “Muslim women do not venture out of their homes. They have their own issues and they fight but this CAA-NPR-NRC has extremely disturbed them. This is our land. We forefathers have been born here and gave their blood for it and now we have to think about our own future. The government must take CAA-NRC-NPR back. We would not like to shift anywhere but would love to go back to our homes if our demands are accepted.”

I am sure the lives of people are not that easy as being portrayed in the media. When I took an E Rishaw from Batla House to Shaheen Bagh, the riksha driver stopped at a place where an elderly woman asked him to stop. She looked disturbed but was going to Shaheen Bagh. I was amazed to see this. She started speaking to the driver, telling him to drive carefully and not stop at any place. Then she started praying and remembering her son who got killed three years ago. I remember him a lot, she said but my husband and other children are not bothered. He was such a nice boy, a very hard working and even after three years have passed, I cant forget him, she said. I was feeling the pain of her. She said she had enormous pain but I felt how despite all this, she was going to the venue. I think there are numerous stories of losses and yet people have the courage to be calm and fight. Each of these women who have stayed in deep freezing nights of one degree temperature deserve our salaam for their sacrifices, which I personally feel will never go in-vain. A sacrifice is not necessarily death but the struggle and the pain that people take so that our tomorrow is better.

I can say that having heard them so many time, I feel that this protest has been unprecedented and extraordinary. Look at the venue there is festivities all around. People reading book at Fatima Shekh, Savitri Bai Phule Library. Young boys and girls picking up tricolor and getting photographs at ‘India-gate’. The ‘Langar’ started by brave friends from Punjab shows how people care and determined to work and that spirit has to be learnt from Sikhs. Yes, only they can do it. A group of young come and getting clicked.

And here you can find friends too who come here for solidarity. My friend Kiran Shaheen is here and informs this is her 18th visit to Shaheen Bagh. My dear friend Syed Ubaidur Rahman‘s latest book Ulema’s role in Freedom Movement is on display at the Fatima-Savitri library. The slogans are inspiring and so are the young voices of dissent.

Whatever the Supreme Court does in the coming days, we hope, it will do everything under it to restore people’s faith in the institution. There is a hope and we hope the judiciary will act and undo the wrong which has been done. The struggle started by the courageous women of Shaheen Bagh is an example and a model for all of us as how can movement be peaceful, democratic and at the same point of time ‘life changing’.