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‘Won’t Budge’: A Shaheen Bagh Awakens at Bengaluru’s Bilal Bagh

At Bilal Bagh on Friday, Naseeruddin Shah said that the courage of women-led protests was inspirational

Published
India
5 min read
From the evening of 8 February, women in Bengaluru have been sitting on an indefinite protest against CAA, NRC demanding <i>azaadi</i> from such laws and to assert their rights as citizens.
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For the last week, Amreen Taj has been skipping work as a beautician in a salon in Bengaluru’s Frazer Town, choosing instead to spend her days and nights in a shamiana just off Tannery Road, next to the Hazrat Bilal Masjid, where a growing anti CAA-NRC movement is brewing.

“Because of the way we have been treated, I am more passionate than ever about standing up for my rights. No such untoward incidents have happened in Bengaluru yet, but I am ready to even be martyred for what I believe in,” she said.

Having started out with a small group of women and enthusiastic volunteers on 8 February, more and more women are flocking to Bilal Bagh, as it has come to be known, everyday after work to spend the night.

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While police permission had only been granted for three days initially, the women have taken it upon themselves to create another Shaheen Bagh in the heart of Bengaluru.

“We are getting a lot of threats to stop, but still we are sitting here because we want to make a second Shaheen Bagh here,” said Amreen.

‘Want to Make This Shaheen Bagh’

Amreen Taj has been at the protest from day one.

“We are fighting for azaadi... till we don’t get azaadi, we will keep fighting. Inshallah, all the public and women are supporting us. With their support, we are encouraged. Those who are threatening us think that we will get scared, but we will not. We are emboldened by their threats,” she said.

Armeen Taj, who works as a beautician in Bengaluru.
Armeen Taj, who works as a beautician in Bengaluru.
(Photo: The Quint/Arpita Raj)

She added that she is now protesting with a new-found passion after seeing all the hate and pressure dished out by those who want to see the protests stop.

“If there are going to be martyrs in Bangalore, I am ready to be the first one to lay down my life. I have that much passion, earlier I was not like this. But after their torture, I am enthused,” she added.

Salma, a resident of Frazer Town, said that she was coming to the protest with her daughters because the hurt unleashed by CAA, NRC & NPR was unparalleled for the community.

“Today, what is happening because of CAA, NRC, NPR... that has hurt us right in the heart. That is why there is such a big crowd here, because this has hurt to the heart, it cannot be healed so soon,” she said.

‘Our Moral Duty to Protest’

Sharia Durrani, college professor.
Sharia Durrani, college professor.
(Photo: The Quint/Arpita Raj)

Sharia Durrani, who works as an assistant professor in a local college, said that she considers protesting her moral duty:

“We all have day jobs and we all have day duties, but this is something that is our moral duty. This falls under our moral duty which is not going to pay you but that satisfaction of doing your bit, that itself is very important.”
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Adding that her father was in the CRPF, Durrani said that she had no regrets as he was doing his duty and she was performing hers.

“I find myself in an ironic situation because he himself is in CRPF and I come here and chant ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ everyday. I have no regrets about that because what he is doing, as his duty of serving the nation, is as important as my duty of saving the nation,” she added.

‘Working for My Kids’ Future, Protesting for Their Rights’

Sabira Bi, a domestic worker, said that she has been spending her nights at the protest:

“I go for work in the morning at 9 am and at 4 pm, I come here. From 4pm, I spend the night for the sake of azaadi. When I get to work, it’s for these children, and when I come here, that is also for the sake of justice for my children. That’s why I am here.”
Sabira Bi with her granddaughter.
Sabira Bi with her granddaughter.
(Photo: The Quint/Arpita Raj)

‘Came Here to Support Muslim Women’

Women’s rights activist Lalitha Shenoy said that she was there to lend support to the cause that all these Muslim women had come out against, claiming that she had been curious about how the women were managing to spend day and night at the protest site.

Women’s rights activist Lalitha Shenoy.
Women’s rights activist Lalitha Shenoy.
(Photo: The Quint/Arpita Raj)

“Shaheen Bagh is out of reach for me, so I came here to lend support. I was curious about how so many women are even spending the night here, how do they sit here all day and night, continuously for 3-4-5 days. I wanted to know how it’s possible,” said the senior citizen, who had come along with her daughter.

Stating that the new legislations were anti-poor and anti-women, Shenoy added: “When they (Muslim women) are coming out in such large numbers, we also feel proud of them because this is one way for them to get exposure. And now, they also need to come into the mainstream along with the rest of us... they should all join us. We need to support them,” she said.

Art & Activity Corner for Kids, Food for Protesters

To ensure that children of protesters are kept occupied and engaged, Bilal Bagh organisers have set up a separate activity centre adjacent to the protest site, filled with posters, agitation art and a small library, where people can contribute books for kids to read.

Volunteers are also spending their time doing art with the kids, as the mothers raise slogans and sing songs nearby. The kids are also taught basic facts about the Constitution via art. Another area has been cordoned off for the preparation and serving of food, like biryani, fruits and snacks.

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High-Profile Visits a Shot in the Arm

On Friday, 14 February, just a day short of hitting the one-week mark, spirits of protesters were lifted by visits of veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah and Independent MLA from Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani.

Shah, who could barely be heard over the cheers of women, lauded the role of women-led protests across the country and said that their courage was giving him confidence.

“These women are being asked if they have been allowed to come out and protest. Who gave them permission? I would only say that these women don’t need permission from anybody.”
Naseeruddin Shah, Actor

Bringing up the Bidar sedition case and the recent Gargi molestation case, he said such things had made him enraged.

Speaking just before Shah, Mevani addressed the ‘mothers and sisters’ in the crowd.

“Modiji has only one dream now. That his lessons in his name should be taught in Class 8 history textbooks. But the lessons won’t be about Modi or Amit Shah, they will be about the women of Shaheen Bagh, Patna’s Sabzi Bagh and Bilal Bagh,” he said.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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