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For the last 12 days, Shaheen Bagh has not slept. Women in burqas and hijabs, and children sit as they fight to be heard. As one enters the protest area of Shaheen Bagh, where women have been sitting in protest for the last two weeks, one hears a 7 year old child scream “Inquilaab Zindabad.” The biting cold of December in Delhi has not shaken these women for even a second. The women are in protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and National Register of Citizens; combined with the police violence against protesting students of Jamia Millia Islamia University. All the women have their own reasons to be here. Even the children know what secularism is.

Posters of Babasaheb Ambedkar, placards with valiant slogans scribbled on them, with sloganeering of Reject CAA and NRC shine on the crowd—500 women sitting in the cold, these unwavering women demand their voices be heard by the government.

The women are in protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and National Register of Citizens; combined with the police violence against protesting students of Jamia Millia Islamia University.

The placards read, “We reject CAA-NRC“, “Jo Quom Babri ke khone par chup rahi, voh samvidhaan ke khone par udvelit ho gayi hai” (The community that stayed silent on losing the Babri Masjid is stirred up on the loss of the Constitution), “Police Barbarta Bandh Karo” (Police, stop with your barbarism).

Strong, outspoken women use placards to express dissent

Babasaheb is seen everywhere, in posters, in placards, in slogans. People talk about being the children of Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb, and it shows why their rebellion is scaring the Centre.

Babasaheb shows up everywhere, in all forms of resistance.

Women in Shaheen Bagh exude a different confidence altogether. When a woman holding her 8 month old child in her hands was asked why she was here, she responded, “We are the daughters of India, no Shah or Modi can dare to tell us otherwise.”

Another woman, for whom this is her first protest, asked me what I would have done if my child was beaten up for protesting his own othering. I did not have an answer. 

Another woman, for whom this is her first protest, asked me what I would have done if my child was beaten up for protesting his own othering. I did not have an answer. 

I asked a young girl from Assam why she was here and she roared, “I do not want to become a Rohingya somewhere else. I cannot produce decade old documents. Why should I have to? I am an Indian, I love the Constitution and I shall do anything to protect it.”

Men surround the protest, looking at the stage as many spoke out against the bill, voicing out their concerns, telling their stories and children play around the stage. 

A woman from Assam tells her story on stage

We can prove our citizenship by handing them the papers. Yet millions will not be able to produce the documents required. This fight is for those people,” Kishwar Jahan, a homemaker who spent the last eight days sitting on the dharna.

Also read: What It’s Like Being The Only CAA-NRC Protester In My Family

On the stage was a student from Jamia, she told a speaker who was about to go next, “Ensure what you are saying is secular. We are determined not to let this uprising become a ‘Hindu-Muslim issue. This is a Constitution issue.”

On the stage was a student from Jamia, she told a speaker who was about to go next, “Ensure what you are saying is secular. We are determined not to let this uprising become a ‘Hindu-Muslim issue. This is a constitution issue”.

A volunteer group of more than 100 people run the site in Shaheen Bagh, working in shifts and providing everything from crowd-control and food to bedding and medicines.

As Uttar Pradesh revels in another tragedy brought down by the CAA-NRC protests, one of the speakers addressed the UP issue asking the strong women not to back down, which was met with applause and sloganeering of “Nahi Jhukenge” (We won’t bow down).

Muslim women claim the streets to make their voices heard

Also read: International Protests: In Unison, The World Says NO To CAA-NRC

We know that they have everything to lose in this dark game of amending, distorting, and eroding the Constitution. Their freedom to pray, their right to livelihood and even, their right to live. Lynching videos, the Babri verdict, the Assam NRC all blend scarily into this government’s agenda of Muslims’ extermination. Muslim women come on their own, and this gives us all hope that that the future indeed is intersectional. 


All images have been provided by the author.

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