You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise. - Maya Angelou
"A group of women asked my mother to come forward and fight for the injustice, and in the same way I also joined the group and now we're leading a protest which will continue till our last breath", Shaihla, a resident of Shaheen Bagh, said. She also believes that this movement is a "renaissance for the Muslims of India."
In South - East Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, women with their children are on sit- in protest on the road from the past ten days, in the bitter cold, under the open skies, night and day. Supporters come and go, join them with songs and slogans, cheer them on in what has become a quiet and peaceful and yet very effective resistance spot against the Citizenship Amendment Act in the national capital.
Aasif Mujtab, a PHD research scholar at IIT Delhi, said, "It all started with the police brutality at Jamia which literally sensitized us but it was more traumatic for the women."
Asif is in awe, as this is the first time in his young life that he is witnessing this kind of protest. “In areas like Shaheen Bagh women as generally dismissed in public perception as being confined within four walls. But look at this, the situation today has made them come out, prepared to face the challenge,” he said.
"I see this protest as civil disobedience. It is completely peaceful, there is no violence, no stone pelting and for ten days all of us here joining India on this issue,” he added.
Posters and placards of Mahatma Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, the Dandi Marche and the police brutality on female students are on display. Women who have never shouted slogans before raise their voice with "Inqualab Zindabad", "Modi Ji humari baat suno" (Modi Ji, listen to us), "Hame aage aana hoga, Samvidhaan ko bachana hoga" (We’ll have to come forward and save our Constitution), while vehemently rejecting the National Register of Citizens and Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
"We all live together, we are all Indians. So why doesn't the government mind its own business. Why don't they understand that their agenda of creating a divide among people will not work now,” a housewife Noor Begum sitting in protest said.
On the effort to spread Islamaphobia by raising the bogey of violence and terror she said with innate wisdom, "we understand the language of love. You will not find even a single needle with us let alone guns and weapons”.
Women are also distressed that because of patriarchy they do not have land in their name, and have also changed their names after marriage. As domestic help Reshma Khan said, "I don't have any identity proof except an Aadhaar card on which my name is mistakenly put as Reshma Singh. My husband is not well to run around and save us from being thrown out of the country.”
"Their slogan is 'Beti bachao beti padhao' , they promised to protect us. But today we are helpless and on the roads only because of this draconian government", Rizwana said.
Young children are also at the site, with their mothers as there is no one to look after them at home.
Salma Khatoon, a nine year old , recalled, "when the police came in, everyone started running to their houses. But I didn't even move from this place, l did not leave the protest."
Humera Sayed, a zoology student of Delhi University,said “we are not against anything or anyone, we are just in support of our Constitution. We are being targeted for blocking and shutting down the roads, highways, and shops. However, no one seems to acknowledge the plight which led us to come this far.”
Zainul Aabdin, who is on hunger strike since the beginning of this protest, said, “Although I belong to Shaheen Bagh but I know that through this law the government will brand me a Bangladeshi refugee”. He further asserted, "all my sisters are sitting in this ice-cold winter so there is no question of calling it off until the authorities respond.”
Shaheen Bagh has become the one solid spot of protest, galvanising academics, students, activists, lawyers. It exudes hope with students from Delhi University and IIT-Delhi taking to the stage to explain the intricacies of the law, and keeping the women informed of current developments across. Food, medicine, warm blankets are now available for protestors with the women dashing home for just the time required to have a bath and as they say “freshen up for the next 24 hours.”
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise.- Maya Angelou