Nothing Will Be Forgotten: From Jamia To Shaheen Bagh review: An account of fear and hope

A Jamia Millia Islamia University student provides a snapshot of history made at Shaheen Bagh

Published - April 16, 2022 04:35 pm IST

The content of Nothing Will Be Forgotten is as direct as its title. A Ph.D. scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia University, Nehal Ahmed, was present on the campus during the days leading up to the police attack on Jamia students on December 15, 2019. What he witnessed on that “darkest day of his life”, he documents in detail.

The 138-pages centre around the peaceful agitation turning into a warzone and the unique gathering of Muslim women in nearby Shaheen Bagh to lead the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA). Ahmed writes a passionate first-hand account of a student shattered by the violence inside his university and how it led to a creative resistance and evolved into an inspiring movement spanning three months.

Harrowing experience

Fearless discussions in college canteens, lawns and libraries taught him more about meaning and purpose of life, values, tolerance and faith. But on that fateful day when police beat up his fellow mates purportedly for joining the protest march against the CAA on December 13, Ahmed felt the only way to give vent to his angst would be to write a book.

“Pliant media demonised us; the distorted truth and incorrect portrayal of a Jamia student’s identity and overnight labelling them as rioters, anti-nationals and terrorists made me put out my version of truth as I experienced it,” he writes.

While the world vividly saw and remembers the visuals on TV channels, Ahmed revisits those horrific hours when he himself was caught in the crossfire and had to run helter-skelter for his life. He details how the police rampaged through reading rooms and libraries, hunting for students, dragging them out and beating them brutally. Bloody wounds, injuries and broken limbs crushed their belief in the ethos of constitutional values and inflicted grave psychological wounds.

Ahmed talks of the harrowing experience of state violence for speaking out against laws that discriminated against Indian Muslims. The venue of agitation shifted to Shaheen Bagh and Ahmed mentions how a three km walk by students and residents brought Jamia and Shaheen Bagh together, shining with the idea of secular India.

But Hindu majoritarianism gave it a communal colour. What transpired between December 15, 2019, and February 24, 2020, (the orchestrated riots in northeast Delhi) was traumatising. The innate power of people cannot be denied but after more than two years, many emotional scars have not healed.

Moments of solidarity

A heartwarming chapter in the book is on ‘Resistance Through Art’ that highlights how students responded to violence and hatred with love, peace, poetry and painting. It radiates positivity and hope that is true of revolutions through art. They focussed on engaging with the community; and created walls of graffiti, slogans, paintings and posters, wrote poems and sang songs of resistance, set up a library with books and pamphlets to educate and explain the CAA to people.

In between the many stories of sadness, fear and pain were also entwined moments of solidarity, happiness and a sense of fire to safeguard the country’s secular fabric. But when the riots began in northeast Delhi, Ahmed says for the first time he felt scared as an Indian minority. “I lost hope as a citizen but the cycle of learning has not stopped,” he writes.

Nothing Will Be Forgotten: From Jamia To Shaheen Bagh; Nehal Ahmed, LeftWord, ₹250.

soma.basu@thehindu.co.in

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