Shaheen Bagh women have coined a new model of peaceful resistance
By Asad Mirza
Shaheen is a Persian origin word in Urdu, referring specifically to the Barbary falcon In Persian, Shaheen literally means ‘majestic’ or ‘like a king’. It also symbolises speed, superiority, determination, loyalty, strength, wisdom, freedom, focus, ambition and aspiration. It also symbolises victory in regard to a decision that has already been made. The vibrant bird also signifies strength, as small in size yet it preys on larger birds.
In Urdu, poet Allama Iqbal, whose poetry is also youth-focussed has used the word Shaheen symbolically to motivate and inspire the young and old alike to provide leadership which leads the nations to the heights of self-determination and is best exemplified in his concept of the perfect man (Mard-e Mo’min).
Providentially the women demonstrators at Shaheen Bagh are proving to take upon the qualities of the bird on which their locality has been named. They have proved that they are visionary, resolved, determined and tenacious like the free bird. And are ready to take on the might of an unresponsive establishment through their silent protest.
The Shaheen Bagh demonstration started very quietly on the night of 16 December, when late at night four men and six women, with some children in tow, moved from the lanes of Shaheen Bagh onto the main road connecting Delhi to UP via the Kalindi Kunj barrage. They silently sat on the road, few hundred metres away from the spot where earlier in the evening the police had dispersed a crowd of youngsters protesting against CAA-NRC, violently.
Since the night of 16 December, these handful women have been joined by hundreds of protesters, mostly women both young and old. Their main grouse is the exclusion of Muslims from the CAA and the plethora of complexities which will be thrust on the shoulders of Muslims to prove their identity, as and when the NRC-NPR are rolled out in the country, besides raising their voice against the barbaric police action on students of Jamia and AMU, and in several other cities of UP.
The Shaheen Bagh demonstrators taking their cue from the bird Shaheen, are full of determination to get the government listen to them, and like Shaheen have clear view of the trials to unfurl, once NRC-NPR are rolled out to comply with.
As majority of the protestors are women from the neighbouring Muslim localities, the Shaheen Bagh protests have been dubbed the largest women protest in India, one that makes Tiananmen Square and Tahrir Square pale in comparison.
These ladies have inspired women protests in several other Indian cities like Allahabad, Patna, Gaya, Nagpur, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and many more cities and towns.
The protestors have braved the record-breaking coldest night of the season besides rains. Every measure for their welfare is being organised by the local youth, who also ensure that the platform doesn’t become political and not any one party, in particular, is able to hijack the movement from the hands of these silent Muslim women. Protestors like Zain-ul Abedeen (29) and Mahrunnisa (50), who have completed 33 and 15 days of hunger strike at Shaheen Bagh, are full of resolve and determination to continue their fight till a resolution is found.
To motivate the protestors and also to draw more participants, there is a continuous round of sloganeering, poetry recital, movie screening, all of which reaches a crescendo around six in the evening when the crowds swell to thousands every day.
The largest crowd (close to a lakh) were seen on the evening of Sunday the 12 January, when rumours of a UN team visiting the place were flying around thick and fast. These women, whose large majority are Muslims from the local areas are very assertive in pointing out that this is not a Muslim protest and they cite various instances of non-Muslim women and men joining their ranks on a regular basis. They are of the view that they you can identify people from their faces not dresses. They opine that only when the blindfold from the eyes of the people is removed will they be able to see the reality of this divisive CAA-NRC-NPR trio.
This protest has become a symbol of unswerving voices against what has been perceived as a discriminatory law, against the minorities, landless, illiterate and the downtrodden. They also bemoan the fact that on the one hand the government claims that it cares for them and brought a law (Triple Talaq), which was not asked for by them, and when they are demanding something for themselves and their community, then it has turned a completely deaf ear.
These women describe their fight as a fight to save the Constitution of the country, though they might be illiterate themselves but aware enough when the constitution is being tampered with. They have become a symbol of resolve and tenacity, just like a mother who can move mountains for the welfare of her children. Similarly, they feel that they are fighting to secure a dignified and proud future for themselves and their children as enshrined and guaranteed in the Indian constitution.
The protests have demonstrated that no one can ignore the resolve and determination of the Indian women, whether literate or illiterate, whether homemakers or working, just like Bharat Mata.
Hats off to their resoluteness and determination.
Amman tujhe Salaam, behen tujhe Salaam, beti tujhe Salaam. Fly high like a Shaheen.