Despite Sec 144 in Jamshedpur, We Let Our Shoes Protest For Us

At every place the locals owned the movement.

Updated
My Report
6 min read
It is hard for protesters to keep the fire alight in their hearts and minds when crushing winds of the administration are hell bent on stubbing it.
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Khamoshi ki Goonj was heard loud and clear in the galis (lanes) of Jamshedpur. The protesters are learning to beat the administration at its own game. We are figuring out new ways to record our dissent while dancing to the tune of Section 144.

Our scoreboard for cancelled peaceful women’s sit-in protests at the last moment stands at three in a month. It is hard for protesters to keep the fire alight in their hearts and minds when crushing winds of the administration are hell bent on stubbing it.

Firstly, the tactic of delay in granting permission keeps the protesters busy in planning while nothing happens on the ground. Secondly, orchestrating last minute assurances followed by last second cancellations, work wonderfully in crushing the spirit of the protesters. The leaders lose credibility amongst the protesters and the protesters lose hope. Perfect strategy to nip it in the bud.

On first day, we visited three areas – Zakir Nagar, Jugsalai, Dhatkidih.
On first day, we visited three areas – Zakir Nagar, Jugsalai, Dhatkidih.
(Photo Courtesy: Sanjay Solomon and Sarah Kazmi)

Khamoshi ki Goonj (KKG) was an idea inspired by IIM Bangalore’s ingenious way of raising a deafening roar of dissent while staying within the confines of 144. We, the two of us, went to eight places in Jamshedpur (Zakir Nagar, Jugsalai, Dhatkidih, Azad Nagar, Burma Mines, Guru Nanak Nagar, 10 No. Sidhgora and three failed attempt at Adivasi bastis and finally at Golmuri) from 20 February to 1 March. We tried to get local contacts at as many locations as it was possible to do so.

We had to be very careful, if the ant-social elements would have gotten wind of it, they would have created a ruckus and that would have scared the locals to join us in the movement.

So, it was just the two of us on a scooter and the posters going around to these places.

We chose the places based on our understanding of the probability of anti-social elements interrupting our initiative. The choices were corroborated by our reliable area contacts. The brief given was:

“The administration has stifled our voice of dissent against NRC, CAA and NPR using Sec 144. It can stop us from assembling but they can’t stop our footwear from uniting and becoming our voice, thereby ensuring that the participants’ identity is kept anonymous.”

Some do’s and don’ts were shared with the locals: 1) Non participation of children. 2) Unidentifiable wall to be chosen to deter the recognition of the exact spot in the locality. 3) A piece of black ribbon to be tied to their footwear as it’s the colour of dissent. 4) Don’t take pictures as we need to protect each other’s identity.

‘Tum 144 lagaoge,Tum andolan band karwaoge,Hum jute chappal rakh kar hi apni awaaz uthayenge,Hum khamoshi ki goonj sunayenge.’

The Overwhelming Response

At every place the locals owned the movement.
At every place the locals owned the movement.
(Photo Courtesy: Sanjay Solomon and Sarah Kazmi)

At every place the locals owned the movement. We only had to explain the concept to the first few passersby and the rest was taken care of by them. It was heartwarming to see them coming together to register their dissent without flouting 144. They keenly followed the instructions and corrected each other to do the same. It was the same wherever we went. From Zakir Nagar to Golmuri.

Locals took on the responsibility of explaining to people what we were trying to do, called up others to join us, distributing the black ribbons, counting slippers. They arranged the footwear in neat lines. We witnessed voluntary participation, unity and love.

Elders were very emotional while participating. We got a lot of blessings. One old man from Jugsalai said, “Abh lag raha hai, kuch toh ho raha hai. Kisi ko toh farak padhta hai (It seem like, now something is happening. At least someone is concerned about the current scenario)."

Many applauded our initiative.

“Beta hamari kamar jhuki hai, tuti nahi hai ( We have bowed down, but our backs are not yet broken).”
Old uncle, from Zakir Nagar
It’s truly a people’s movement and all they needed was a platform.
It’s truly a people’s movement and all they needed was a platform.
(Photo Courtesy: Sanjay Solomon and Sarah Kazmi)

A jibe was consistently reiterated, “Koi humein kapado se pehchaan teh hain. Abh bolo, unhe chappal se pehchaane ko (Some people recognise us by our clothes. Now ask them to recognise us by our footwear)."

After visiting Zakir Nagar ( February 20) , Dhatkidih and Jugalsai (February 21), we realised that we did not need a lot of resources to make this happen. It’s truly a people’s movement and all they needed was a platform.

On February 22, we contacted the gurudwara committee at Guru Nanak Nagar and explained the initiative. The members were highly enthusiastic and promptly asked us to come over. When we explained that we wanted an unrecognisable wall, their reply was, ‘Ji sahi baat ke liye darna kaisa? Aap toh gurudwara ke saamne wali wall le lo (When you are doing the right thing, there is nothing to fear. Please take the wall right in front of the gurudwara)."

But we felt it would be an open invitation for anti-social elements. So we decided we'll do it at a nearby locality. The parting words from the people of Guru Nanak Nagar were, “Bharosa karo hum par, jab bologey hazir honge, hum toh bahaduron ki kaum hai ji (Have faith in us. Whenever you will call us, we will be there. We are a community of bravehearts)."

Women Led The Movement

At Zakir Nagar, our first very first location, we realised that not many women showed up.
At Zakir Nagar, our first very first location, we realised that not many women showed up.
(Photo Courtesy: Sanjay Solomon and Sarah Kazmi)

At Zakir Nagar, our first very first location, we realised that not many women showed up. So, at other places we tried reaching out to women and were delighted to see them come forward and take charge.

When at Dhatkidih, we mentioned to the volunteer about the absence of women at Zakir Nagar. She was angry after hearing about the lack of women participation. She quickly retorted, “Toh kya hum aurton ki chappalein awaz nahi ban sakti? (Are you saying, women’s slippers are not loud enough?)"

She quickly called up other women saying, “Shaheen Bagh mein aurtein din-raat baithi hai, tum thodhi der ke liye nahi aa sakti? (Look at the women Shaheen Bagh, they are protesting day and night. Can you not come for a few hours also?)" Similar incidents happened at other places.

At Azad Nagar, a kid came running with a bag full of women footwear. We refused to accept it because we wanted people who are aware of CAA-NRC only to participate. But suddenly, a group of women were standing at a balcony and informed us that they had collected the slippers and sent it across. They are aware of the movement and wanted to join it.

It Wasn’t All Smooth

We also left out some areas because we were afraid of the possible backlash and safety of the participants.
We also left out some areas because we were afraid of the possible backlash and safety of the participants.
(Photo Courtesy: Sanjay Solomon and Sarah Kazmi)

Choosing an area and tracking reliable locals was crucial in this environment of mistrust. At Dhatkidih, we didn’t have a local contact and a woman had to be shown a video as proof of our participation at a protest to make her believe that we weren’t trying to dupe her.

We also left out some areas because we were afraid of the possible backlash and safety of the participants. For example, the three Adivasi bastis, we went to, we found they were in areas outside Section 144. The ones in urban areas have been infiltrated by the anti-social elements and we couldn’t risk the safety of people joining us.

We decided that we won’t stay at any place for more than an hour for safety purposes. We felt it was enough time to create an impact on the people and ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

Hope is what we experienced through Khamoshi Ki Goonj. Hope for the undying human spirit, hope for humanity!

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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