January 1, that marked the 31st death anniversary of activist-playwright Safdar Hashmi, was commemorated through plays, poems and a photography exhibition, all dwelling on the anti-CAA-NRC protests. It was organised at the Constitution Club of India by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). One of founding members of SAHMAT, Ram Rahman, a noted photographer himself, who curated the exhibition, describes below the voices of dissent captured in these photographs.
A massive protest broke out in the country after police brutality on students on Jamia Millia University. These images are a first-hand account or evidence of how the events unfolded. Few of these images were taken by students from AJK MCRC (Jamia University) who witnessed the violence that erupted on the campus on December 13.
A highlight of SAHMAT’s 1st January Safdar Hashmi Memorial exhibition were images by Mahavir Singh Bisht, a Jamia alumnus who teaches photography at the Mass Communication Department of the university. He has covered different protest sites across Delhi, including Dilli Gate of Daryaganj where lathi charge was exercised by police on December 20. His photographs give us a sense of evolving visual iconography as adopted by protestors. The image that hits home is of Dilli Gate where the protestors are offering prayers while kneeling (one of the postures adopted by Muslims for observing prayer) and on their right policemen are standing with their batons. Peace and power in one frame.
Images by Shakeeb, Meharban and Prabhat show how Jamia had become a battleground on that unfortunate day. Later, Dr Zakir Hussain Library, the central library of the university was attacked and many students were injured as seen in the images by Md Meharban, a photography student at Jamia. Locals are protesting every day outside the Jamia campus and Shaheen Bagh and the university students are documenting these each day with diligence.
Vinit Gupta’s portraits of protestors are straightforward, witty and humorous, peeks into their minds and gives a glimpse on why people are turning up for the protests in huge numbers. The lens was also on India’s marginalised communities. Javed Sultan’s (PhD scholar at Mass Communication Department) images displayed the plight of Rohingyas in Myanmar, farmer protests in Delhi along with the ongoing CAA-NRC protests. Portraits by Tamara Anand are of Adivasis and Dalits in Sonbhadhra who are reclaiming their land through peaceful struggles. Veterans photographers Vijay S Jodha paid tribute to victims of 1984 Anti-Sikh riots and Parthiv Shah brought our attention to Hashimpura Massacre, 1987.
The show, overall, seeked to demand the basic right of the people to hold peaceful demonstrations.”