At a time when India needs its leaders to stand in opposition to the ruling party, BJP, the four ‘dadis’ of Shaheen Bagh have taken centrestage to show seasoned politicians what leadership really means.
On 26 January, India’s 71st Republic Day, these ‘dadis’ unfurled the national flag – a deeply symbolic act. And, this is the maneuvre adopted by the women at Shaheen Bagh – to use the symbols of the nation as a mirror for the not-so-democratic decisions made by the ruling party.
Yet, ‘real’ politicians call them ‘tutored’, ‘fighting proxies for men’ – reducing them to mere puppets who are incapable of making independent decisions and political choices.
However, the women have achieved what the combined opposition could not – strengthening the country’s spine and questioning the establishment.
Women Protesters – The Most Courageous
When I reached ground zero on Republic Day, thousands of people were already gathered around the flag as early as 9 in the morning so they could witness the ‘historic’ flag hoisting by the ‘dadis’. Many had slept at the venue overnight just to be able to catch the best place from which to see the flag being unfurled.
Women had come with their husbands and children, dressed in the colours of the country. The impact of the movement has been stunning. Even more so when you consider the centuries of oppression women have had to face in our patriarchal society.
In Amitav Ghosh’s Ghosts of Mrs Gandhi, he describes how when New Delhi was under the grip of anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, women made a human chain against rioters when they came to attack Sikhs in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area. He wrote,
“Nothing was said; there was no signal, nor was there any break in the rhythm of our chanting. But suddenly all women in our group – and the women made up more than half of the group’s numbers – stepped out and surrounded the men; their saris and kameezes became thin, fluttering barrier, a wall around us. They turned to face the approaching men, challenging them, daring them to attack.The thugs took a few more steps toward us and then faltered, confused. A moment later, they were gone.”
“Confused” – that’s the catchphrase – which is how the establishment is approaching the peaceful sea of women who are protesting, using symbol after symbol of secular India to put across their point – don’t render us stateless, roll back the newly amended Citizenship Law.
Of Biryani, Rs 500 & ‘Natak’ At Shaheen Bagh
Before reaching Shaheen Bagh, Twitter had had me in splits. Many on the micro-blogging platform tweeted that every ‘dadi’, aunty, and protester at Shaheen Bagh is given Rs 500 per day and free biryani. That is what justifies the presence of such a large crowd, according to the keyboard nationalists.
Neither did I get richer by Rs 500 not did I receive the promised biryani. I did, however, manage to stand in the same place as the ‘dadis’ and thousands of other women, who are relentlessly protesting to ensure the idea of India that was envisioned by our ancestors prevails.
But how long can any protest last? It has to have an organic conclusion, right? The women at Shaheen Bagh, however, have not yet put a date to it. They say that they will stop only when the government orders CAA-NRC to be rolled back.
“We will stand here till the time the “black kanoon” the CAA-NRC is rolled back. We are indefinitely going to sit till they do it.”Farhad Banu, Homemaker
Their confidence and utter irreverence is bringing out the worst in the right-wing trolls. Sample this:
On the other hand, the protesters have endorsed Gandhian principles – diametrically opposed to the trolls.
“This is akin to the Satyagraha movement started by Mahatma Gandhi against the British. It is our right to protest – and we will not let any detractors make us believe otherwise.”Anika, Student, Class X
Something has to be severely wrong with what the government has proposed for so many to have stepped out and resist – not for free biryani and a few hundred rupees.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)