Amidst deafening slogans of Azadi and some wintry after showers, the women and men of Park Circus zealously served tea to the students and onlookers as they joined the sit in demonstration against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act. The crowd swelled as the protest reached its third day or more precisely, the third night.
Kolkata which has of late seen numerous uprising against the draconian Act of the fascist government, however lies selectively aware of the indefinite 24/7 sit in protest majorly led by women cutting across generations. The revolutionary spirit of these women couldn’t be marred by the paid media. The young students of Kolkata were seen singing and sloganeering alongside the people of Park Circus. One could feel the warmth in the whole Maidan area as elderly women would take you by the hand and make way for you to sit with them and talk to them.
dded to this were regular intervals of piping hot chai and biscuit served at the protest ground to keep the spirit high. Kids along side their mothers were gleefully running across the whole area and men bordering the core zone of the protest in a wide circle around where the women sat hurdled together in numbers. There were multiple tirangas all around the protest zone and one couldn’t help but stay enamored by the unity that symbolize our country: India was being reclaimed by its citizens.
The imagination of the nation for these women defeated the divisive fascist propaganda. They collectively rejected the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register for Citizens and as political citizens spontaneously mobilized themselves without any partisan banner or slogan. The mobilization that started with just 100 women gathering at the Maidan from their neighbourhood, now has only made way for more people through social media. Modi’s toxic masculine minority politics that wears the garb of protection fell flat on its face. The women here informed me that they were not leading anybody or were being led by anybody. It was rather their responsibility as citizens to take to the streets. And that the streets were the only option. The concerns they shared surpassed the NRC-CAA issue.
Mehjabeen, a fellow protester firmly said the recent Citizenship Amendment Act was unconstitutional and that it was completely arbitrary on the part of the government. She states that the constitution isn’t meant to be disregarded. ‘NRC sirf Muslim ke liye nahi hain, Hindu ko bhi line mein lagna hoga… desh me GDP gir padi hain, bekari hain. Hum log ladenge marte dum tak. Iye desh humara bhi hain, humare baap dada ne is desh ke liye khoon diya hain…agar marna hoga toh marenge par isi mitte me dufenge,’ were her words.
The mobilization that started with just 100 women gathering at the Maidan from their neighbourhood, now has only made way for more people through social media. Modi’s toxic masculine minority politics that wears the garb of protectionism fell flat on its face.
Mehjabeen is 25 and is working as a tutor. She strongly condemns the attacks on students, the ‘Modi media’ and the increasing instances of violence against women in the country. She is however hopeful of the youth and the city of Kolkata that she finds relatively safer for women, and she hopes for a better nation where women would move freely whenever and wherever they want. She plans to return home with her mother later at night.
Nigar Khan states that the BJP had caused trouble to the whole nation. The Citizenship Amendment Act for her are products of illiterate politicians who had unleashed terror and uncertainty in the lives of people. She firmly asks how many documents would one has to produce in order to prove one’s citizenship? She draws attention the blatant lies hurled at the people by the government and how detention camps have become the tragic reality in India. She reiterates, ‘Jahan sab khade huye hain main bhi wahi khadi rahungi‘. She had been coming to the protests daily from 11 in the morning to 4 in the evening. She only takes a break at home to cater to her family’s needs and she was back to take over the night when I met her. She wants her voice to reach the quarters in Delhi. She observes, ‘BJP ne soch liya ki hum Muslim chup rahenge. Through triple talaq they intervened into our personal laws and thendemolished the Babri Masjid…love jihad and everything else. We still stayed quiet but we werent deaf. They have now tested our patience and we are well past that‘. Nigar is in her 30s and as she speaks against the Act, she also extends solidarity to the protesting students of JNU and cherished the history of brotherhood as she knows, during India’s struggle for freedom.
The women here informed me that they were not leading anybody or were being led by anybody. It was rather their responsibility as citizens to take to the streets. And that the streets were the only option. The concerns they shared surpassed the NRC-CAA issue.
Farida Begum (48), a homemaker wants to voice her resistance against the NRC-CAA. She strives to stand by the youth till the very end. She wants justice and Azadi from Modi Raj. She joined the protest at 4 in the evening and had been there since. She believes as citizens we should continue with our work and labour honestly and that protests were the only way forward.
Bushra is a doctor and says she abhors the way NRC-CAA was being used to terrorise and divide people. ‘I feel good because society had so long thought women to be mere spectators and being suppressed. But now women are coming to the forefront and reclaiming their rights,’ says Bushra on being asked about the increasing visibility and activism of women in the protests across the campuses. She is however hopeful that the government should facilitate basic negotiation and the media to function democratically. The woman of 26 wanted to register her protest for the safeguarding the constitution and her rights as a citizen of India. ‘I am here for the Indian people,’ says she.
Nilofer Sadiq, a teacher by profession throws light on the inception of the protest. She and numerous other women had spontaneously participated in the call given by a 40 year old woman called Asmat Jamil who is at a critical stage of kidney disorder. She chooses to look at the protest at Shaheen Bag as an example but differs on a minor note that the Park Circus women mobilized themselves on the call given by Jamil as they were simply moved by her resilience and courage against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act. Nilofer says, ‘Jamil being a kidney patient and a homemaker had given a clarion call. If she could brave the cold and the dust to take to the streets why cant we!’.
She calls on to the youth to resist the government of the day that is all out dividing the people in the name of religion. She recollects the painful memories of partition and does not want the same history to be repeated in India. ‘We are human beings treat us like one…so many Hindu and Christian women are supporting us with such unmatched energy…We need their support and without support this movement cannot be taken forward. We are by choice Indian and not by force. We have chosen to live here. Its a request to the government to stop dividing us and concentrate on real problems in the country like falling GDP and women’s safety. We wont show papers to prove our loyalty to India‘.
She draws attention to the huge number of women in the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act who had to come with children leaving their homely chores behind. She bitterly states that their children could hardly study as all of their families are out on the streets. ‘We are out of our house in a not so comfortable zone. We are here all day as now we are left with no option and this is totally unjust. The reason the mothers are here with their kids is because they don’t want them to end up in detention camps. They have seen the videos of the detention camps in Assam. This is better than detention centers. This is not a Muslim women’s protest, it’s for all,’ says the 35 year old woman. She points to the unbreakable energy of the students taking part in the protest alongside the residents of Park Circus.
As kids in the crowd shouted slogans to destroy the fascist state I spotted a firm looking Nazma Khatun. The lady in her late 60s on being asked what was that she was protesting against, tears streamed down her eyes as she started to speak. Khatun says she is reading her Namaz regularly as she wants justice for the incessant pain and torture meted out to her children and the youth of the country in the recent protests. She voices her concern for the growing incidents of rape in the country and has faith in Allah to bring people in power to their senses. She is the last one from her family to come to the protest ground. She absolutely abhors the way the police is dealing with the protests. She wants to make sure that such incidents never take place and that the protests across the nation is a warning sign to the government so that such injustices never see the light of the day. She looks at the act as an attack on existence and identity or as she words it, ‘Izzat par hamla‘. She like all other women are highly overwhelmed by the large scale student’s participation in the protest.
Neha Khan in her 30s voiced her concerns about the changing sociopolitical landscape of India since the BJP had been voted to power. She laments how in premier institutes where her children study, had been breeding grounds for bullying on the lines of religious hatred. For her, humanity comes first. She states how the BJP had failed in dividing the nation as in the wake of such authoritarian rule the country stands united like never before.
Both Khatun and Khan reiterates that they share the same blood like any other Indian then why decide who are less and who are more Indian? Khan talks about the silence of the government on issues of mob lynching and that it was time to reject the anti-people government and take down the dictators. They are welcoming everyone with open arms, and have armed themselves with thick blankets and songs of resistance against the Citizenship Amendment Act. And for those still not feeling the heat, you might also be served some tea to break your numbness.
All pictures have been provided by the author herself.