It is late at night and Jazeera V., crusader against sand-mining, is putting her children to bed under a Peepal tree on a pavement outside Kerala House in the national capital.
As her 64-day sit-in in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram and assurances by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy did not yield results against the illegal mining in her village in Kannur, Ms. Jazeera took her protest to Delhi.
On a bright blue tarpaulin spread out, the 31-year-old crusader is camping with her three children, the youngest Mohammad barely a year-and-a-half old, in this unfamiliar city.
“I have come to Delhi in the hope that there will be some action…On the third day of my protest outside the Secretariat, the Chief Minister met me, he assured me there will be some action, a lot of politicians came and met me; there was talk of action, yet nothing on the ground has changed,” she says sitting by the lonely stretch of road and unmindful of the attention she draws.
The Delhi Police have cautioned her against staying out after 10 p.m., but Ms. Jazeera is steadfast in her resolve, “A 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. protest is not what I want,” she says.
She questions the administration’s motives. “I don’t know if anyone has taken bribe, I don’t know what their compulsions are, but no one seems serious to do anything against the problem,” she says.
An autorickshaw driver by profession, Ms. Jazeera is also fighting against a part of her own family. Her brother, she says, is part of the mafia that illegally dig sand, so the pressure to call off the protest has been immense even at home. “My husband, a madrasa teacher, supports me. He couldn’t come to Delhi, but my children are here,” she says.
Her daughters — 12-year-old Rizwana and 10-year-old Shifana — have been through the worst, but are not complaining.
They miss being at school, but would rather be with their mother. “Some students from Jawaharlal Nehru University have offered to teach them while we are here. I couldn’t have left them behind,” Ms. Jazeera says.
Does the mother in her feel scared, sleeping out in the open with her two daughters in a city that has earned the sobriquet of crime capital? “I’ve seen much worse, they attacked me at home and went scot-free…this road seems much safer,” she says, fanning her children and ensuring that the mosquito repellent coil is still burning.