Sustaining Shaheen Bagh & Challenges that lie ahead

A peaceful and powerful movement articulated by Muslim women, thrice oppressed, it must reach out to others alienated, workers, farmers, Dalits and Adivasis

Shaheen bagh

Salaam Shaheen Bagh! It has earned its name and is now recognised as an iconic example of the wave of Azadi2 movement that swept the country at this stage of the new millennium of India. It takes its place among the landmark tourist spots that dot the political landscape of Delhi like Parliament house, India Gate, Red Fort etc.  Its significance should be realised and treated as a historical entity. 

The Shaheen Bagh movement is an outgrowth of Delhi’s political legacy. Delhi, the political capital of India,  had seen many political movements that included the first war of Independence against the British around 1857, the Independence movement led by the Congress from the 1920’s until 1947, the pro-democracy movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 70’s against the Congress rule, the Anna Hazare movement against Corruption around 2011..  

Its unique feature being that it is led by Muslim women (among the most underrepresented and forlorn segments of Indian society). It is unlike the typical political-party led stunt that take place and whimper away when the party bosses attain their goals. Starting as a novice in political acumen, it found its expression in the daily activity that engulfed it. It embraced the expression of Azadi that the students of JNU, Jamia Millia and other universities expounded. At a historical juncture of the highest youth unemployment in 40 years, and a juncture that saw the trampling of constitutional rights, it expressed itself as a voice of resistance to the diktats of Indian ruling polity.  It expressed the sisterhood of all religions and castes and gave room for all opposition voices to express themselves. It said NO to discriminatory laws CAA and NRC. It brought the anti-discriminatory articles of the Indian Constitution’s preamble to the front and asked for upholding them. It brought the bright colors of young mothers with children, old women and youth debating throughout the night seeking answers to the thorny issues that affected their lives. It countered the BJP leadership’s narrative fomenting hatred against the Muslim with a non-communal narrative posing existential needs and seeking their resolution. It stood its ground in the coldest winter that Delhi had seen for a century! 

Shaheen Bagh has sprouted many similar expressions of political dissidence across the country, led by women. They number in scores and are still emerging. It has fanned demonstrations and protest movements that were unheard of since I947.  Its appeal is reverberating in the hearts of all change- seeking underrepresented youth and citizens. 

It contributed to the massive win of the Delhi state elections of Feb 8 2020 by the AAP (Aam Admi Party (62/70 seats). The Delhi electorate gave a resounding defeat to the BJP ideology and in the process made it clear that they prefer amenities like Free Electricity and transportation, good education and Healthcare over bigotry and xenophobic patriotism.  This win has national repercussions as all parties that trod the soft-Hindutva approach towards garnering Hindu votes, will now rethink and reprioritize their strategies. 

SUSTENANCE : By virtue of being an Idea standing for a peaceful movement of dissidence against despotic rule by people of color (underrepresented women and youth), for restoration of anti-discriminatory provisions of the Indian constitution and for the realisation of the peoples essential needs, supported by people of all faith,  it is undying and indestructible. The idea however needs to be nourished and spread.

  •  It must strike a chord with all sections of society that feel alienated. The Industrial blue-collar workers and the white-collar Govt. employees, the Dalits in the village fighting against Oppression, the slum dweller seeking a decent shelter, the tribal  in the forests seeking preservation of hereditary rights, the unemployed Backward caste youth seeking employment opportunities, must all find shelter in the movement. The movement must voice and articulate their demands 
  • The movement must have political objectives, as it is only political power in the hands of uncorrupted and honest leadership geared to help the poor and bring systemic changes, that can realize and satisfy peoples demands.  
  • It must attain a coherent structure. Activists engaged in the protest movement, must construct a common agenda and develop rules of engagement between themselves and with the authorities.  This will lay the groundwork for a new political construct which will question all existing policies and procedures and seek to reformulate them so there is a meaningful transformation of existing tenets, and give birth to a new working order that will genuinely address all peoples problems.
  • It must engage with all opposition parties and channelise their energies towards meeting common goals. Opposition parties with vested interests will seek to lead and manipulate the movement towards their benefit and this needs to be guarded against. 
  • The movement must engage in all social issues of concern like Honour, racial, caste, and religious discrimination and oppression. It must stand against Dowry, Rape and exploitation of women.
  • It must work with the Indian global diaspora and seek their support for Indian transformation
  • It must take a progressive stand on international issues of concern… on the Environment, sustenance of Earth, global warming, Pandemic health issues etc. 

I hope the above points would serve as discussion nodes and generate further thinking

(The author can be reached at




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