It was February 2020, when SabrangIndia had noted that it was probably for the first time in India that women became the face of resistance against fascist policies of the government so prominently. “From Shaheen Bagh to Mumbai Bagh,” it was women who took up the charge to oppose the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
In Delhi, the protests had been going on since December 2019, started, nurtured, led by women of all ages. And around mid-February, a collective women from diverse backgrounds and faiths undertook a yatra, visiting all the protest sites in Delhi. The yatra was undertaken to show solidarity with the thousands of women who had been sitting in protest 24×7, to oppose the CAA-NPR-NRC. This group called itself the Mahila Ekta Yatra, or women’s unity tour/journey. The group included eminent activists, lawyers, writers, filmmakers including Shabnam Hashmi, Suroor Mander, Natasha Badhwar, Syeda Hameed, and Saba Dewan.
— Amrita Johri (@johriamrita) February 14, 2020
Today, this group finds itself named in the controversial chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police in F.I.R No. 59/2020. Here the Delhi Police has accused protestors, activists and students who were peacefully opposing the CAA/NRC/NPR of ‘planning’ ‘conspiring’ and somehow igniting the Northeast Delhi communal violence of February 2020. The charge sheet was filed in September 2020, and has listed the city’s most eminent activists, writers, professors, artists, student leaders, politicians and many more, they have now added the Mahila Ekta Yatra, to that list. Many have been interrogated, asked to join investigations, and arrested.
The organisers and participants of the Mahila Ekta Yatra, have issued a statement strongly contesting the “criminalisation of women’s expression of peaceful dissent and participation as citizens in Indian democracy”.
They add that these “allegations and insinuations” against them are not just false and fabricated, but are a “part of a persistent effort to suppress legitimate, peaceful expression of political opinion and opposition by criminalising it through perverse re-scripting of the truth and facts.”
The complete statement may be read here:
The women-led peaceful protests against the CAA, NRC and NPR became a powerful symbol of democratic resistance, inspiring solidarity from across the globe. Women, especially from the Muslim community, expressed their firm opposition to laws and policies that have differential impact and consequences on citizenship of different religious communities and vulnerable groups. To express this view point 24*7, peaceful sit-in protests were held in Delhi and many parts of the country.
To express solidarity with the women who were upholding the spirit and values of the Indian Constitution, the Mahila Ekta Yatra, comprising women from diverse backgrounds and faiths, visited some sites of protest against CAA/NRC/NPR on the 14th, 15th and 16th of February 2020.
At the protest sites, we reaffirmed our commitment to a secular and inclusive India. To safeguard these values, we opposed the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposal to create a National Register of Citizens (NRC) through a National Population Register (NPR). These measures would disproportionately impact the poorest and vulnerable groups, including migrant labour, homeless, small farmers, adivasis, indigenous communities, muslim community, dalit bahujan masses, women and transgender persons, who would not be able to furnish the necessary documents to prove citizenship as required by the proposed CAA/NRC/NPR combine. At the protests sites we spoke about women’s rights and other democratic rights, including the right to education, food security, social security and the right to information. We collectively read the Preamble of the Constitution and sang songs of peace and harmony.
The chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police in F.I.R No. 59/2020, assigns blame for the communal violence in North-East Delhi in February 2020 to protestors, activists and students who were peacefully opposing the CAA/NRC/NPR. The chargesheet, filed in September 2020, also mentions the Mahila Ekta Yatra.
As organisers and participants of the Mahila Ekta Yatra, we know that the allegations and insinuations against us are completely false and fabricated. They are part of a persistent effort to suppress legitimate, peaceful expression of political opinion and opposition by criminalising it through perverse re-scripting of the truth and facts. The chargesheet invokes the draconian UAPA to intimidate and silence dissenting voices and curtail personal liberty through long periods of incarceration.
In our work and our struggles, we, as part of the women’s movements, have consistently opposed all forms of inequality, injustice and discrimination. The various struggles for human rights and justice we have been associated with, have one thread in common – a deep commitment to constitutional values and principles.
We shall not be intimidated. We shall not be silenced.
53 persons were killed in the communal violence in Delhi. Unfortunately the Delhi Police, which functions under the Ministry of Home Affairs, has taken no action against persons who made incendiary speeches and called for violence. Recent developments have made it clear that an independent judicial inquiry needs to be conducted into the manner of investigation by the Delhi Police. Judicial oversight is required to prevent malicious prosecution.
We, the participants of the Mahila Ekta Yatra, demand that all steps be taken to ensure that real perpetrators of the Delhi violence are brought to book and the persecution of peaceful dissenters is immediately stopped.
Annie Raja, Anjali Bhardwaj, Dipa Sinha, Shabnam Hashmi, Kamla Bhasin, Navsharan Singh, Vani Subramanian, Poonam Kaushik, Maimoona Mollah, Amrita Johri, Philomina John, Suroor Mander, Aditi, Radha, Suneeta Dhar, Priya Pillai
(On behalf of the Mahila Ekta Yatra)
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