'This is the idea of India': Kolkata's unlikely women anti-CAA protesters vow to carry on

The majority of them are homemakers who have never stepped out of their houses to participate in rallies. They are now singing Iqbal's Sare jahaan se acha and  Faiz's Hum dekhenge.

Published: 13th January 2020 02:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th January 2020 02:24 PM   |  A+A-

Children of the women protestors at Kolkata's Park Circus Maidan.

Children of the women protestors at Kolkata's Park Circus Maidan. (Photo | EPS)

Online Desk

KOLKATA: Chances of hearing Bismil Azimabadi's lines rending the air on a regular day in Kolkata are rare. But then again these are not regular days in West Bengal's capital city.  Over the last one week, the cries of Sarfaroshi ki tamanna have been reverberating across the Park Circus Maidan where hundreds of women have been staging a sit-in demonstration against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). 

Drawing inspiration from the women of Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, who have been protesting for almost a month now, these women, mostly from the minority community in Kolkata, have been staging a round-the-clock protest under the winter sky. 

A majority of them are homemakers who have never stepped out of their houses to participate in rallies. They are also singing Iqbal's Sare jahaan se acha and  Faiz's Hum dekhenge and raising slogans of Inquilab Zindabad in unison.  

On Sunday, accompanied by their husbands and children, they read the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. 

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"Hum Samwidhan badalne nehi denge (We will not let them - the BJP government - change the Constitution of India)," says Asmat Jamil, the founder of Azumar, a Kolkata-based NGO. 

Jamil along with her NGO members had taken the initiative to mobilise the women and bring them together under the Indian flag. 

"Governments come and go but the Constitution remains. We will not let them tear the secular fabric of India. We want the government to revoke the (CAA) law. This is a fight for our rights and we will not bow down," she adds. 

The protesters range from college students to greying grandmothers well into their 70s. 

They have all vowed to continue this protest till January 22 when the Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearings on the constitutional validity of the controversial Act that provides citizenship rights to persecuted refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan - with the exception of those who are Muslims. 

Kolkata witnessed multiple protests during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit, but the sit-in protest led by the women stood out. 

The vigour and courage shown by them in stepping out of their houses in a bid to reclaim public space and make themselves heard was significant. 
  
In fact, across the country, many such women are leading the protests against the controversial Act, which they claim is unjust and proof of the government's hyper-nationalist machismo.  

Not just resolve, but clarity is also on show at the Park Circus Maidan protests.

"We won't allow politics here, we have not invited any political leader. The only banner present is the Indian flag and underneath the tricolour, we will continue our resistance," Jamil asserts. 

"This is perhaps history in the making where women are braving the cold of January to save the country," says Aatreyee Ghosh, a class 12 student.  She has been a part of the protests all along. 

"Although my final exams are nearing, this protest is important for me. We are the youth of this country and if we don't question the government, who will," she asks. 

With piping hot tea and periodical cries of Halla Bol and Azadi fortifying them, the young college women among the protesters have been holding the fort throughout the night with alacrity. 

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And it's not just Muslims, support has been pouring in from women of all faiths for the Park Circus protests.

"I have been travelling here every day ever since my sisters started this dharna. As a Hindu woman, it is my duty to stand by my Muslim sisters in the time of need. This is the idea of India," said Sudipta Pal, a mother of two. 

"We have received a lot of support from our husbands and neighbours who have been kind enough to bring us food and water. Initially, it started with 30 people and now there are at least 200-300 women at any given time. We shall resist," pledged Nilufa Khatoon, from the protest site at 2 am.

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