- Asma Khatun, 90, Bilkis, 82, Sarvari, 75 protest in the biting cold
- The 3 sit prominently at Citizenship law protests in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh
- Protests at Shaheen Bagh have been led by the area’s women
A picture of resilience has surrounded Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area where women protestors have led protests for over fifteen days against the Citizenship Amendment Act, shedding the comfort of their homes. Amid the protestors in the freezing Delhi winter, is something that cannot be missed: The ‘Dadis‘ (Grandmothers) of Shaheen Bagh.
Asma Khatun, 90, Bilkis, 82 and Sarvari, 75, were asked for their full names and all three of them had one single reply: “We won’t tell. Since we do not have documents to prove. It might be held against us.”
The three women, accorded a prominent space in the front row on each day of the protests, are now being hailed as the ‘Dadis‘ of Shaheen Bagh.
To a simple question on why they are protesting, they answer one by one:
“Ask (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi why we are protesting,” says Asma Khatun, the strongest and the oldest of them. “Why did we have to see a day like this? That I will have to sit in protest? I am against CAA,” says Asma.
“He wants us to furnish documents to prove citizenship? There are so many people in this country who have no papers. Many lose their papers to natural calamities like floods and rain. Where will they get there documents from? I dare Modi to name 7 generations of his family. I will name 9,” thunders Asma, on being asked why she wanted the law revoked.
On being asked about counter protests in favour of the Citizenship law, Asma says, “Those who are not aware of the law support it.”
“Look at the protest where we are. It is not that only Muslims are protesting. Come and see how many people are distributing food. They are from all religions. Someone is giving us bananas, some giving us juice and biscuits,” said Bilkis.
Sarvari, the youngest of the three ‘Dadis‘ summed up the protests.
“We are all born here and we would want to die here itself. From all religions. These laws are divisive. And I am not going to present any documents if there is such a drive. These laws are unfair to those who cannot produce those documents. So we will stand in solidarity.”
Onlookers at the protest site say the elderly women defy their age with a strong fighting spirit.
On being asked till when the women intend to sit in protest, they say that severe winter cold makes no difference to them.
“We do not feel cold out in the open. We have the support of everyone. After all, I want to tell the future generations that we fought for their rights.”
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India before 2015 because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.