Skip to main content

Recalling contribution of anti-CAA women activists Sadaf Jafar, Naheed Aqueel

Sadaf Jafar
By Subham Majumder*
After it was passed on December 11, 2019, the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), claiming to providing pathway to Indian citizenship for refugees from the neighbouring countries on the basis of the religion they belong to, caused large-scale protests all over India. The news in the initial few month’s period of 2020 was rife with citizens on the street voicing their reluctance against the Act. With the outbreak of the pandemic, the protests were blunted.
Gloria Steinem, a spokesperson and social activist for the American feminist liberation movement in the late 1960s, once said, “No one can give us power. If we aren’t part of the process of taking it, we won’t be strong enough to use it”. The anti-CAA movement of India appears to have drawn from similar motivations. Indeed, it gave an opportunity to the young Muslim women to spearhead protests. It has been a novel movement for a patriarchal society, where women are bound by gender-based stereotypes.
Instead of being docile and submissive, the movement has helped women to shift their perception towards a more assertive image. Not without reason, women from all parts of life joined across the country in the anti-CAA protests – whether she was Safoora Zargar, a student of the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, or Nausheen Baba Khan in Park Circus, Kolkata.
An interaction with two of these women – Sadaf Jafar and Naheed Aqueel – was helpful in getting a glimpse of the anti-CAA movement of Lucknow, including the infamous December 19 events, when the protests turned violent.
Sadaf is a social activist, a history and political science teacher for around 15 years, is associated with the Congress party, and holds the belief that one can’t be a teacher until one is an activist. She has worked on social activism on sensitive issues such as domestic violence and women’s empowerment.
Her peaceful protest against CAA were obstructed on December 19 leading to her arrest, even as other protestors and children were beaten up. She was allegedly kept hungry and thirsty for 34 hours, while her hair was pulled and her back was bruised in the jail. Even though she was in the lockup for 20 days, her only takeaway from the experience is, the support in the form of female camaraderie that she received for her troubles.
Naheed, whose grandfather was a freedom fighter, has been a social worker for the last 15 years. She has worked on grassroots problems such as rural issues, poverty and backward Dalit issues. Her contribution for the Muslim backward Dalit families, the pashmandas, and single women has received notable awards from the Governor and chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh.
She was one of the six women to receive the Niti Aayog’s Women Transforming India Awards 2016. Usually in a patriarchal society like ours, where a women’s identity is defined by her husband, Naheed’s Akel Mahila Manch is a sign of respite, as it provides a voice to the three crore-odd single women community of our country.
On December 19, she protested with her small procession of 7-8 women against the Act. Some pictures of the protest were posted on Facebook, creating a snowball effect, which later garnered a lot of support from the masses. According to Naheed, the whole message of the movement was twisted to a Hindu vs Muslim movement, even though her religion discouraged the participation of other communities.
Instead of being docile and submissive, the anti-CAA movement has helped women to shift their perception towards a more assertive image
The experience of the two women leading the protests is similar in some respect. First of all, the movement was initially planned as a peaceful protest to show the disagreement towards the act, but it eventually became a violent and chaotic procession. Sadaf wanted to lead the protest in a “no slogan, no anti-authority” way. But a bunch of hooligans, who didn’t belong to the protests, started making it violent, which provided the police an opportunity to retaliate hard. These hooligans rendered namaz in the middle of such chaos, creating a misnomer of the actual message of the protest.
Naheed Aqueel
As for Naheed, similar factions which were not part of the initial peaceful processions, created violence and chaos. She recounts the day vividly: She saw a Muslim autorickshaw driver, who went to collect groceries due to the haste of the protests, gunned from the front direction as a collateral. Such politicisation of events was used as a pivot for polarising the two religions, which diluted the main purpose.
Secondly, police brutality was a substantial challenge for organising such movements. While a lot of Indian celebrities have focused and showed their disagreement with the police brutality on the George Floyd case in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, our own citizens suffer from a similar treatment by the police, and no voices are raised for that. Police was called for curbing the violence and chaos spread in such protests, where they instigated the opposite through lathicharges.
One good takeaway from the protests was the use of social media sites like WhatsApp and Facebook, which enabled huge participation of citizens in these movements. These sites informed the citizens about the atrocities happening around the country in these movements, and connected all of them.
However, democratisation of media has its own consequences; it leads to misinformation. Such misinformation asymmetry is created because news has been commoditised, where spiced-up versions are sought after. Our houses are served with the news attuned to our likings, helping in creating an extremely biased position on any issue. Conveying a lucid message to the supporters is the biggest hurdle faced by the current protests, where dilution of message is happening heavily.
Yet, the protests by the two women tried to give a proper platform to the empowerment struggle of women in our country. According to Naheed, the protests have enhanced the personal development of women, as they are learning to raise their voices and mobilise supporters. These young women will be the future leaders for the new India. Such optimism is a step forward for our society, but how much of these enhancements will be carried forward into the women’s own homes still needs to be seen.
Sadaf considers Bhagat Singh as the motivation for her protest. She and activists of her ilk compare our current India of 2020 to Nazi Germany, where ethnic cleansing took place in order to provide citizenship to one “race”. She insists, we are a secular country, where children take pledges every morning by saying “All Indians are my brothers and sisters”. However, she regrets, the Act and its supporters ensure the subtle exploitative system running, even as feeding on the marginalised.
---
*PGP-2 student at Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Why Bose's India Gate statue suggests RSS, BJP need violence-loving ‘Hindu’ Netaji

By Prem Singh*  In a TV channel debate, a BJP spokesperson and anchor shared and served a lie that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's daughter in her letter to the Prime Minister has alleged that the Congress kept devaluing Netaji to further Gandhi's non-violence; because Netaji had taken the path of liberating the country through violence mode by forming the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). They also praised the Bombay Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 to confirm that the country got its independence through a violent route. I stated that I have read the letter of Netaji's daughter, and there is no such allegation in it. But a lie told in the intoxication of power is bound to be blatant. Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, even in the past, has already requested some earlier prime ministers of the country to bring back the mortal remains of her father from Japan to India. In none of the letters she has spoken about devaluation of her father’s role in the freedom movement on the basis of Gandh

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Is coal import dependence of more than 50% by 2047 of any relevance to India?

By Shankar Sharma*  I have read the article " Building Resilience in India’s Power Sector " by N Vedachalam, released by the Observer Research Foundation, with a lot of interest. I expected it to provide few useful recommendations to our authorities in charting out a sustainable pathway to green energy transition much before the climate catastrophe push our communities to the precipice. But I am sorry to say that the overall discussions or the message implied in the article disappointed me. I was expecting the article, coming from an engineer with past experience in the power sector, to discuss the much needed recommendations to put the power sector on a sustainable developmental pathway. But I could notice mostly technical jargon and a lot of statistical information, which may already be available in the public domain.   The article also seems to have simply accepted what some of the official agencies seem to have indicated as inevitable for the power sector in our country;

'True decolonisation move': Demand to name new Parliament building after Ambedkar

By Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd*  In recent weeks, there has been a demand for the new Parliament building being constructed on the revamped Central Vista in New Delhi to be named after the architect of the Constitution and anti-caste leader BR Ambedkar. On September 14, the Telangana Assembly passed a resolution urging the Centre to name the new Parliament building after Ambedkar. The Bharatiya Janata Party was absent during the debate about the resolution. The next day, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led government declared that the new secretariat in the centre of Hyderabad would be named after Ambedkar. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao added that he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to name the new Parliament building in Delhi “Ambedkar Parliament”. The demand is finding resonance among civil society groups too and has led to social media discussions as well as public mobilisation.  But two questions arise: Should a Parliament that makes laws for a nation over a

Government 'fails to take up' Indian migrants' unpaid wages issue with other countries

By Rafeek Ravuther, Chandan Kumar, Dharmendra Kumar*  The migrant workers were one of the most vulnerable sections during the pandemic. India experiences large-scale movement of migrants internally and internationally. After the outbreak of the pandemic, migrant workers continued to face injustice especially in getting wages in expedited manner. In the international context, India, the home of 9 million cross-border temporary labour migrants, carried out the largest repatriation exercise ‘Vande Bharat Mission’. Even though the Indian government addressed the immediate requirement of repatriation, it failed to understand and recognise their post-arrival grievances, like back wages, social protection etc. Recently many workers were deported from the middle- east region. Amidst the establishment of grievance mechanisms such as Consular Services Management System (MADAD) and helplines in Pravasi Bharatiya Sahayata Kendra (PBSK), the unresolved grievances remain high. The number of unresolv