As the clock struck 12 on 31 December, this couplet by Allama Iqbal filled with promise the area in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh where women have been sitting in protest against the recently enacted Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) for 20 days. To usher in the new year, hundreds of women, joined by citizens from different parts of the Capital and the country, rose to their feet, turned on the flashlights on their phones and sang the national anthem in unison, followed by chants of “inquilab zindabad (long live the revolution!)".
When we had arrived a few hours earlier, the women were sitting firm, some with their toddlers in tow, speaking to TV crews about the police brutality against the protesting students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), chanting slogans, offering food to those who had come from near and far. Their aim was crystal clear: “Kaala kanoon wapas lo (repeal the dark law)."
“Me and my children have Hindu friends, they study together, play together, we are part of their wedding ceremonies and they are part of our festivals. How can you separate us?" roared Sheza Khan.
“Itne zulm ho gaye—Babri Masjid case, musalmanon ki sadkon pe lynching, hum sehte rahe, par ab samvidhan par zulm ho raha hai. Hum nahi sahenge (There has been so much oppression—the Babri Masjid case, the lynching of Muslims on the street, we endured it all. But now the Constitution is under attack. We will not stand for this)," added Mariyam Khan.
With great determination, the women—calligraphers, teachers, homemakers—persevere in the coldest winter Delhi has seen in 100 years, to “save the Constitution" and stand in solidarity with their "brothers and sisters who have been targets of police brutality". Some may choose to keep their faces and full names hidden, but they all demand that their voices be heard in every corner of the world.
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