This Independence Day, Mariyam and Sabika from Main Bhi Muslim collaborated with Vandit Jain from Lights Camera Azadi, to observe the day and discuss their relationship with the Constitution. The one-hour long podcast titled ‘Mann Ki Baat’ is in-essence a heart-to-heart conversation between the three hosts that covers topics like – meanings of secularism and non-violence resistance; solidarity and allyship, dissent as freedom of speech, and above all, recognising the power of the Constitution.
This Main Bhi Muslim episode opens up with Sabika reciting The Preamble, to note how deeply embedded the words ‘secular’, ‘democratic’ and ‘equality’ are in our psyche as Indians. They then discuss their journeys as Indians since birth and how their relationship has evolved with the country and the Constitution over the years. For Mariyam and Vandit, it is eponymous to having a trusting parent or a non-judgemental friend, for Sabika this relationship has been tested time and again. She states, “My relationship with India is seeming like a bad marriage over and over again. I feel judged. Judged for being a woman. Judged for being a Muslim. Judged for being an artist.” The conversation dives further into why Sabika feels so, leading to discussions around women’s safety, anti-Muslim sentiments and a lack of artistic support. Mariyam notes at one point, “The soul of the country is chained in regressive narratives.”
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In this Main Bhi Muslim episode, the hosts then share how their minority statuses have affected their identities as Indians. Vandit, who belongs to the Jain community, throws light on how despite being a religious minority, he has never felt the pressures of proving himself to be a patriot, unlike the Muslim community. He states that this had also got to do with the Jain community mainstreaming itself with the majoritarian Hindu identity. “(Firstly) the Jain identity is getting diluted. Secondly, my status as a minority is very different than the Muslim minority. I have openly criticised the politics with authority without getting called a jihadi as a result,” Vandit emphasises.
The hosts further share instances from their childhood of being associated with religious stereotypes, interestingly, around the same time as when they were also beginning to learn the National Anthem and about the fundamental rights. When do we start associating with religious identities? It’s a question left unanswered for the listeners of Main Bhi Muslim to ponder over and reflect on what freedom of religion entails.
Vandit and Sabika, further share their experiences of extending their support to the Shaheen Bagh movement, and the sense of freedom they felt in doing so. For Sabika, it was a moment of reckoning as she realised how those streets turned her home. For Vandit, participating in those sit-ins erased stereotypes around Muslim neighbourhoods that he had believed until then.
This Main Bhi Muslim episode concludes with the three hosts sharing their ideas of freedom of speech, nation and secularism. Vandit defines a nation as its people. “Logon ke bina toh (desh) sirf zameen hai,” he says. To which, Mariyam adds the need to also question the term ‘anti-national’. “Why would someone want to become an anti-national? Mujhe kya milega anti-national hoke? I am resistant because I love my country,” she asserts. The discussion ends with the Main Bhi Muslim hosts and Vandit remarking upon the need to redefine secularism and freedom of speech to truly make a country secular and democratic. And above all, recognising the power of an individual to bring humanitarian change to the society. “Never ever think that you are not big enough to make an impact. Ussi din aap ghulam ho gaye,” Vandit notes.
Also read: The Status of India’s Muslim Women Amid State-Directed Violence and COVID-19
You can listen to the full Main Bhi Muslim Independence Day special episode here:
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