As trans, women and queer groups walked against Modi-Shah’s dangerous politics, protesting against an array of issues, such as the recent Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register; the regressive, draconian Transgender Bill, India was reminded of its most structurally vulnerable, yet strongest voices. A rally led by women, trans & queer groups against CAA-NRC-NPR was held in cities across India on January 3, the birth anniversary of educationist and social reformer Savitribai Phule. Savitribai worked diligently with Fatima Begum Sheikh to educate women and young girls. Both of them stood up fearlessly against forces trying to stop their quest. The rally was perfect for commemorating the birthday of Savitribai and taking inspiration from these feminist leaders. Savitribai Phule said, “Give a war cry, rise fast, Rise, to learn and act,” and so the womxn today did.
The beautiful banners and placards carried today were a glimpse of the power womxn hold. With the words of Paash and Faiz, whose poetry is now being deemed “communal” and “anti-hindu” in nature, were held proudly. Womxn from different spheres came together and spoke against the fascist state that India is becoming.
Today’s protest was different. Together women, dalit, queer and transgender people — students, activists, feminists, teachers, domestic workers, writers, scholars, journalists, lawyers, sex workers, farmers, and other citizens — came and stood up in the face of fascism. Thousands of women said NO, to the dark, regressive times.
Women carried beautiful placards, some profoundly proclaiming how they will not bow down to tyranny. “Rainbow against saffron,” said one of the placards, immortalising the struggle that queer communities hold against the Hindutwadi regime. As is always, the struggle was strengthened with Babasaheb’s and Savitribai Phule’s pictures in posters, placards and banners.
An 85 year old woman in attending said, “I have witnessed the Partition of India, do not dare to partition my heart. I will have none of this Hindu-Muslim divisive thoughts in my country.” And I felt like womxn, really, will change the world.
Another woman asked, “How many documents does this government need? Aadhar. Licence, PAN, Residence proof, all linked to that Aadhar. Why do I need to prove my citizenship to some PM who was voted by the likes of me? Ask him to prove his citizenship. I won’t.“
The state-sponsored terror and brutality is creating immense insecurity among people, that even government-issued documents like passports, voter, Aadhaar and PAN cards, are not proof enough of citizenship. An attack of such nature is obviously going to hit at the most vulnerable people in this country, including Muslims, dalits, women, queer and trans persons (many of whom are forced to leave their homes after facing familial violence), and poor, tribal and indigenous communities.
The parcha (pamphlet) the march issued was extremely informative, briefing the people who attended and the people they called upon on the cause of the protest and how every community is going to be affected.
Womxn paid a deserving tribute to Savitrimai, who was the most resilient woman of her times. She had men hurling cow dung and stones at her for educating Dalits and women, so she carried a spare saree along with her; such was her strength. Alongwith Jyotiba Phule and Fatima Sheikh, she set a huge parameter for leaders to step up to. It is empowering to see Babasaheb and Phule become national icons for resistance and rebellion, back to where they belong, at the forefront of dissenting against regression.
It is time they become national icons of what they represent. Truest forms of dissent.
Ending on a note with Savitrimai’s most empowering lines:
“Awake, arise and educate
We’ll come together and learn
~ from Rise, to learn and act
“End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,
You’ve got a golden chance to learn
So learn and break the chains of caste.
Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.”
~ from Go, get Education