This was not a battle I fought alone, it was a shared struggle, it continues: Bilkis

Shaheen Bagh’s Bilkis Daadi, says once Covid-19 pandemic is controlled, the disease of  CAA-NRC must be combated

Her kohl lined eyes have the light that only those who have seen great changes in their lifetime can have. Her smile cracks through a wizened face, and she may look frail, as many women her age who have seen a tough life do, but she is all power. Bilkis, better known as Bilkis Daadi of Shaheen Bagh, is a global icon of resistance and revolution, since December 2019 she sat braving the frigid Delhi winter, on the roadside near her home, to fight for her rights as a citizen of India, and to secure the futures of generation to come.

Written about in international media for months since then, Bilkis was recently listed among the 100 most influential people of 2020 by Time Magazine. This latest global media recognition is a timely reminder of the revolution she started with her sisters in the common cause, which they eventually suspended in public interest once Covid-19 pandemic set in.

Many of those associated with that anti-CAA-NPR-NRC movement, now face charges, questions, and accusations of having somehow conspired to ignite the anti-Muslim Communal riots that broke out in North East Delhi in February 2020. Most of the women protesting at Shaheen Bagh were Muslim, long time residents of the area, and for many, it was the first time they had ever participated in such a public meeting. The rest is well recorded as a part of the history of Modern India.

It was a women-led movement, with the grandmothers of Shaheen Bagh at its heart, and Bilkis was one of the most popular one. Because she would talk to everyone, and would not budge, even when the temperatures dropped to single digit readings on the thermometer.

On Tuesday, eminent women citizens, and various women’s groups came together to felicitate Bilkis, hailing her as a powerful global symbol of peaceful resistance. The women’s groups have also demanded that the Delhi Police stop maliciously targeting all equal citizenship protestors for the Delhi riots. “Even as we proudly acknowledge Bilkis Daadi, we are outraged at Delhi Police’s malicious investigation that has projected our peaceful movement for Equal Citizenship, against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) as some sinister conspiracy to cause the terrible Delhi riots,” stated the groups. 

Bilkis was gifted a plant and a poster inspired by her image. It read ‘Shaheen Bagh ki Bilkis Dadi Ko Dilli Ki Auraton Ka Salaam’ by Dr. Syeda Hameed, former member Planning Commission, Annie Raja, NFIW, Professor Poonam Batra, Journalist Bhasha Singh, filmmaker and women’s rights activist Vani Subramanian and Vertika Mani of the PUCL.

The women representatives opined that Shaheen Bagh was the largest, most peaceful, women-led movement for democratic rights in Independent India. “We are proud that Muslim women led these protests, in the best traditions of our freedom struggle. Something resonated in the soul of India, which is why in over 200 places, women sat on our streets to be heard, and be visible as equal citizens,” they added.

“This was the largest, most peaceful, women-led movement for democratic rights in Independent India. We are proud that Muslim women led these protests, in the best traditions of our freedom struggle. And equally proud that we joined this struggle, across religions, classes, generations and regions, in full measure, along with students, academics, queer groups, people’s movements, farmers’ collectives, and ordinary citizens to fight for justice, harmony and equal citizenship for all. Something resonated in the soul of India, which is why in over 200 places, women sat on our streets to be heard, and be visible as equal citizens. This is surely what women’s empowerment is about,” they added.

Women are nearly 50 percent of India’s population, and they led the Equal Citizenship movement because we know from our lives the dangers that CAA-NRC present, said the women leaders. 

They reiterated that “women often do not have land or property in their names, have lower literacy rates, and leave their natal homes upon marriage with no documents in tow. In Assam, a majority of the 19 lakh left out of the NRC, are women,” and that is why women protested in large numbers, “not to destroy India through violence, but to save it by peaceful means.” 

Yet, they were maligned even in ‘media coverage’ that aimed to create a twisted narrative saying that the women were being “paid 500 rupees to sit on protest”. Now, said the women’s groups, the “Delhi Police has emulated that shameful effort, to demean, and target this movement and all who stood with it. In its charge sheets, peaceful women have been portrayed as rioters who hid knives under their burka, and carried mirchi powder to spread violence. Sometimes they are presented as calculating and evil and out to destroy India, and at other times as being mindlessly provoked to violence. We condemn this misogynistic and dangerous fiction – it belongs in the trash can of patriarchy. This twisted investigation and the mindset it reveals has no place in India of the 21st century, and no place in a criminal legal process”. 

Women activists are among those accused, questioned, charged  and arrested under anti-terror laws like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the women’s groups stated that were standing in solidarity “with each equal citizenship protestor. We stand with all those falsely accused and unjustly incarcerated,and demand an end to this targeting. We stand with every Bilkis Bi of every Shaheen Bagh all across the country”. 

At the press Conference on Tuesday, the Bilkis dadi recalled the winter that she and others spent on the street sitting on a peaceful anti-CAA-NPR-NRC protest at Shaheen Bagh.  “This movement was about mohabbat (love) and barabari (equality). Why are our young people being put in jail because of it? This is their time to study and learn,” she is quoted in a report by Muslim Mirror, “This was not a battle I fought alone, it was a shared struggle, and it continues to be shared.”

She added that there was “so much for the government to do – for the future of our country, for the farmers, to fight hunger, but they are doing this instead… Today Covid is the bigger disease. When that is overcome, then the disease of the CAA-NRC must be combated. The struggle for equal citizenship will continue,” reported MM, adding that she also commented on the farmers’ agitation, “government has so much to do for the future of India –for farmers, for hunger. Those should be their concerns, and those are my concerns too.”

In her opening remarks Vani Subramanian, said, “The event today is because this was our shared struggle. And women across India continue to be inspired by Bilkis Dadi and Shaheen Bagh,” reported MM.  Dr. Syeda Hameed underlined that “the history of the freedom struggle shows that Muslim women are not the way they are constantly projected. They have independent minds and are capable of leadership, and that is what Shaheen Bagh exemplified.”

While proudly acknowledging Bilkis Dadi as her compatriot, Annie Raja, expressed her outrage at Delhi Police’s malicious investigation. She accused the Delhi police of twisting the peaceful movement for Equal Citizenship, against the CAA-NRC into some sinister conspiracy to cause the terrible Delhi riots” adding that, “women of India would fight against this attempt to criminalize our movement, against this projection and against the CAA-NRC.”



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