Shaheen Bagh provides hope for a new democracy and collective struggle for common good

citizenship amendment act

The sale of national flag is gone manifold. The reading on Constitution is growing and perhaps for the first time in history of independent India, the faith in our constitution has grown tremendously. It was never so much. In fact, those who are supposed to uphold the constitutional values are actually protecting Manusmirit and people have realized now that it is time to reclaim our nation and its symbols from those who believed in two nation theory and brahmanical nationalism based on hierarchies.

NarendraModi and Amit Shah might have thought that they are on their way to ignite the Hindu masses against the Muslims but the fact of the matter is in their overzeal they have united India as never before. Youths are out in the streets and so are students but the biggest achievements of these protests have been that people have now understood that moblisation in the name of religion and identities without issues has a limitation and it is time to assert ‘Indian’ identity more than anything. Students would not have heard so many quotes of Baba SahebAmbedkar or Gandhi which they are reading and listening today.

There is a mood of festivities at the JamiaMillia as crowd throng with national flag and diverse posters depicting their fear about India but it look after the December 14th assault at the JamiaMilia, the resolve of the people to reject CAA and NRC has only strengthened. The best part of this is that police assault on the peaceful protest at the Jamia only increased people’s support to the movement and the attempts to create a Hindu Muslim divide actually have now boomeranged.

At the gate of Jamia is the huge banner:‘ We the People’ and everywhere the tri-color flying. The gates also have the big portrait of Baba SahebAmbedkar, MaulanaAazad and Gandhi ji.  I am happy for  Maulana Azad, the legendry education Minister of India was forgotten and many of the Muslims in the past blamed him too but today Maulana’s saner voice has become the real guiding principle of the youths all over the country. Baba SahebAmbedkar has turned out to be the real hero of the masses and with him India’s constitution is the real hope of India.

These protests have truly revealed the changing nature of India and its youth who are expressing in absolutely stunning forms. The creativity at these places is unbelievable. Any journey to Jamia or ShaheenBagh will give you lot of insight and how movements are built and could be hugely learning lessons for all particularly the new young. Perhaps, that is the reason why people from different walks of life thronging to these places to watch and be part of them. Children are following Kanhaiya Kumar and every day there is a new kind of ‘azadi’ slogan mostly loudly chanted by children. You girls with Indian flag painted on their faces proudly claim India is their land and ‘le kerahengeazadi’. It look the fear is gone and now a revolution in making.

A big banner at the Jamia calls our Parliament as Hall of Shame and the reference is to the passage of this completely communal bill both in LokSabha and RajyaSabha that made CAB as CAA. You can see numerous posters depicting Modi and Amit Shah as legion with Hitler. At ShaheenBagh, I see two girls with banner : ‘Make Tea not War’ and the other ‘Bolke luv Azad haintere’, the immortal words of revolutionary Faiz.

The two young women from Jamia who took on the Delhi police on December 14th brutal oppression became national icon. It was the women power visible everywhere how these two from Kerala protected their male colleague from the police brutality. Their posters are visible everywhere though now more and more women are in the lead. They shout slogan, they are on strike, they lead in the Dharana at the protest sites.  Look at the children and women so proudly and passionately singing the Azadi song. The energy level is unprecedented. It is signaling something that a change is happening.


It is not a crowed rented to make way for a political party. The most fascinating part of these protests at Jamia and ShaheenBagh is that people have their own understanding. I was amazed to hear the voices of the old women or dashing Dadis at ShaheenBagh. I can vouch Modi’s Minister cant face the young voices. All those TV wallahs need to visit and have an open discussion as why are people so upset. No Muslim came out despite an open war by this government when the Ayodhya verdict happened. People remained quiet when the triple talaq bill was passed but the citizenship act has proved the last nail. You can take the community for granted and intimidate all the time. The attempt to intimidate a community which has been part and parcel of our freedom movement, our progress whether social or cultural, will always fail. The rulers need to understand this that they are not here on a permanent contract and will have to vacate one day. They need to understand that a country like India will always fight back against any onslaught on their basic structure.

What ShaheenBagh saw yesterday on the 27th or 28th day of its peaceful protests since December 15th was an unprecedented gathering of people. It is celebration of a united India. More than one hundred thousand people and crowed swelled so much so that at the Jamia metro, the metro officials closed the door.

The best part of these protests is that they have revived spirit of India as a nation. People have reclaimed our national symbols which the right wings were misusing and taunting others being anti-national. Now, you can hear ‘janaganamana’ our national anthem at the historic Jama Masjid too. ListenVandeMataram at the venues where protest emerged and last night i.e. January 12th was the day when the number of people at the ShaheenBagh became historical. More than that you have the people reciting Kirtans, reading Quran, Gita, Bible and even holding Baba SahebAmbedkar’s portrait at the religious ceremony. It was heartening to see how people have come together and joined hand.

Revolution, they say, must start from home. In the past we saw movements which were led by political parties or even student groups and disappeared after some time but for the first time in my memory, I am visualising a challenge and a change in the social structure too. ShaheenBagh protest might look like that against CAA but it has actually generated a whole young generation which will lead in future. Look at both Jamia and ShaheenBagh, the dynamic of the youth filled with idealism as well as secular nationalism with Ambedkar-Bhagat Singh-Maulana Azad in their hand, the preamble reading youth, proud of being Indian as well as his Muslim identity that respect the other identities and ready to work with them for a common cause in the greater national interest. It make us all proud that our future leadership will emerge from these new youngs and not from the traditional religious leadership which has so far become virtually redundant or is playing second fiddle and maybe will have to confine them to the work of ‘deen’ or religion alone.

Our loudest cheers must be for Muslim girls who are out in huge number and ShaheenBagh showed that their time has come to lead and participate in the nation building. They might have come to protect their own interest but it is also a fact that they have proved that they have knowledge and are well equipped. Listen to those Dadis who came on the NDTV prime time and the way they responded was extremely revealing. Even when they remained quiet on all other issues, the citizenship issues have awakened these women too and liberation and freedom is now at door. None can take them for granted. They have proudly kept the flag of democracy and secularism high. The values of humanity, a concern for their children but above all the capturing of Indian nationalism which is essential when the nationalism was used to defame the Muslims and criminalise their youths. The Muslim women showed that they have mind of their own and can take now the political issues which were not considered their domain. In fact, what was always needed in all the platform and which political parties or other Tanjeems could not do on their own has been achieved here. This is the biggest revolution and it will have huge impact on our future polity. Muslim women are going to take lead and they must be provided equal space as they have proved that they can take political questions and fight politically if any one question their nationalism and patriotism. This was the biggest challenge and the community at large and women in particular have shown that they are not going to tolerate slur on their identity and their Indian identity cannot be taken away by a government which is five years old.

It is time for political parties, civil society organisations and even the Muslim organization to capture this spirit and make it a mission that women’s voices will be there and the best way to defeat the communal fascist forces in India is to ensure that we respond them collectively and through our common cultural heritage. Our freedom movement had lots of problems and issues but it united masses against the British and their oppression. The fact of the matter is that India’s ruling classes and in those matter castes always sided with the British and got exposed when all people joined hand to throw them away. Today, the same forces who were siding with the oppressors are claiming Indian nationalism and it is heartening to see that people from all walks of life have joining hand and are helping each other.

ShaheenBagh protests have given a new hope to us that non-violent democratic protests far away in nondescript places too can succeed if they are done with conviction as well as commitment and consistency. A protest which is not being organized in the ‘heart’ of the city or by the ‘leading’ ‘civil society’ people or religious groups where media cameras remain all the time and seek different questions. It also shows that with conviction you can fight against the fatigue. As the government think that these protests will end because none can fight anything endlessly but that thought itself has failed now. ShaheenBagh shows that the women are ready to take lead and can lead and organize batter. Ofcourse, it is not a feminist war against men but here women and men are working together. It also reflects that men have to be part of women’s battle as liberation of women is actually liberation or azadi of men too. ShaheenBagh is opening new chapter in the lives of social movements in India which are impactful. The model will be replicated by people all over that women will not play second fiddle and we need to give them space and learn to sit at the back and simply enjoy the dance of democracy.

The fascist onslaught on our constitution is now being fought democratically and this fight will also enable access of women into the huge civil society as well as political space. Political democracy will only succeed if there is social democracy and social democracy is impossible unless women be made part of the structure. ShaheenBagh is providing the answer. The fight against undemocratic communal fascist regime can only be fought by a combine might of the people of this country and the women from ShaheenBagh have shown us the way. We salute them for giving people hope in themselves and fighting this battle so bravely in this chilling cold. Their sacrifices will not go in vain. A new India is emerging and its inspiration is ShaheenBagh and the women who have ignited our heart and revived our hope in demoracy and collective struggle for common good till the goal is achieved as Faiz said : ‘ Lazimhaike hum bhidekhenge, hum dekhenge’.Wo din kejiskaawaadaahai, hum dekhenge.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist



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Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email: [email protected]

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