I am doing this for my children, says Jazeera V.
Three months ago when she landed in the Capital with her three children to protest against illegal sand mining in Kerala, Jazeera V. came with a few essentials and unquantified resilience.
She announced that she was going to stay on the footpath outside Kerala House and under the open sky for as long it takes to stop the pillaging of beaches by the sand mafia.
Jazeera V. has kept her word. The oppressive heat of summer has given way to bone-chilling temperature, there has been no response from the government and there is constant pressure from the local police to vacate the footpath; but none of these has dissuaded her from carrying on her protest.
“I meant it when I said, I will stay here until the government responds and takes action,” she says softly, no signs of aggression in her voice or demeanour.
Does she miss home, is she guilty about her children, the youngest a boy of less than two years, having to sleep on the streets and is there fear that her protest might just go unnoticed?
“I am doing this for my children; if we don’t stop now, there will be nothing left of the beaches. Our houses will submerge into the sea…” she says.
While politicians have largely been missing, a few non-government organisations and some concerned individuals turn up once in a while to offer support.
“This new party [the Aam Aadmi Party] came before the elections, but no one has come since. M.K. Muneer, Minister of Panchayats and Social Welfare in Kerala, came once,” says the 31-year old.
As she waits for the government to take action, Jazeera has made the footpath her home. A small bed with cotton mattresses, bright orange tarpaulin for a roof, a shiny black rack for her utensils, a makeshift kitchen and a separate enclosure for a bath, she shows her recent acquisitions with a pride of a new-home owner.
“My husband sends money from Kerala then I go and buy the essentials. Some people have been very helpful too. Someone gave my daughters; 12-year old Rizwana and 10-year old Shifana, a laptop…students from an IAS coaching institute have been tutoring them. I am ok for now…” she says.
Jazeera, who gave up her job as an auto-rickshaw driver and moved to the Capital, is hoping to catch the government’s attention. Earlier, she sat for 64 days outside the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, but barring an assurance from State Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, Jazeera says there has been little done on the ground to check the illegal activity.