Shaheen Bagh Kids and Jamia Students Make Space for Art, Reading and Revolution
'As we can't communicate directly with the government, I try to depict what we believe in'
NEW DELHI: After the diligence and active work of days, students of Jamia Millia Islamia have succeeded in bringing about a reading corner in Shaheen Bagh, where a sit-in protest by local women marks its 26th day today.
Stairways leading to the closed shops in the vicinity of the protest circle have been transformed into a public library and art centre by student volunteers from Jamia along with the young children of Shaheen Bagh.
The area occupied by readers, for readers has been named ‘Read for Revolution’. Other such spaces have been set up outside the Jamia campus, in DU’s North Campus and elsewhere.
Having witnessed the destruction of Jamia’s library, students pledged to create public reading spaces or corners for the cause of dissent and to amplify the idea of education amongst the protesters of Shaheen Bagh.
The older students work with the children on the narratives of their drawings, paintings and poems. Having made more than 300 posters in support of Shaheen Bagh and opposing CAA-NRC, the children are now narrativising the attack on JNU students, allegedly by ABVP workers and supporters, with the slogans like “JNU meri jaan, Shaheen Bagh JNU ke saath”.
Arsheen, who is in the ninth grade, points to her drawings which are already on display: “Earlier I would draw without any purpose, but now as we can’t communicate directly with the government, through symbols in my posters I try to depict what we believe in.”
Osama, a Jamia student and the main organiser, was in awe seeing the women sitting here fearlessly with their toddlers in the ice-cold winter.
“These children inherit a similar spirit as their mothers do. So it’s imperative to engage with their spirit, because people might forget the posters and slogans the children raise but not their knowledge,” he tells The Citizen.
He believes “the Shaheen Bagh protest can’t be confined to CAA and NRC, because alongside that the historically prevailing gender binary has vehemently been broken down by ordinary women here.”
Yusuf, a master’s student at Jamia, sitting on the mattress reading a book titled Social Movements in India, strongly believes that middle and lower class families are the most affected by the vicious circles of politics.
“These are the people who raise their voices of resistance in situations like the present.”
Besides young children, senior citizens, working people, domestic workers and many from Shaheen Bagh and nearby areas are occupying the area here, choosing books or picking up colours and chart paper, while some also come to donate their old books and stationery.
Vasudhara, a PhD scholar from Jamia says, “We don’t want children to sit idle and be passive about the situation. The paintings and drawings they make are a way of expressing their minds. So this space is to engage their energy in more creative ways through arts and books that interest them.”
On the question of closed shops she asserts, “The police officials encroached on our space. This is still a public space.”
On New Year’s Eve Yusuf and Osama installed a copy of the Preamble for children above the 10th grade.
“We sit with children, teach them what the preamble to our Constitution entails, and what the CAA legislation says. The kids are smart enough to understand the contrasts,” says Osama.
These volunteers are amazed with the dedication and “pure volunteerism” of the younger generation. “These books, posters, and paintings are not for commercial or exhibition purposes, yet the kids come everyday to volunteer!” says Vasudha.
Ayesha, ten years old, is reading The Ghost at Caplin Caster. She is fond of reading haunted stories. With innate wisdom she says, “I request our PM not to become a ghost, because my Appi and Bhaijan are being beaten because of him. They are my idols, not our PM. At least listen to what they and we are protesting for.”