Uttar pradesh

Anti-CAA protesters push political boundaries in Deoband

Iram Usmani in Deoband.

Iram Usmani in Deoband. | Photo Credit: Anuj Kumar

Every movement gives birth to new political faces. In Deoband, it is Iram Usmani, one of the five women who led the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in January 2020, under the banner of Mutahida Khwatin Committee (MKC).

Two years later, Ms Usmani, a housewife, is busy canvasing for the SP candidate Kartikeya Rana in the narrow lanes of the town where women in hijab are ubiquitous. “The BJP is flogging a dead horse. Their Hindu-Muslim agenda has been rejected by the people in this election. So, their affiliate groups are finding newer ways to fragment people and demonise Muslims,” said Ms. Usmani.

Article 25 of the Constitution, she said, provided them the right to practice their religion and uphold their religious identity. “Covering your head has been described as wajib (duty) in Islam and it doesn’t hurt anybody. In fact, many Hindu sisters also like to cover their heads,” she added.

On SP president Akhilesh Yadav maintaining a distance from the hijab controversy, Ms Usmani it was the right thing because the issue has been raised only to polarise elections.

She said the BJP talked about providing security to sisters and mothers as if women were some “sweetmeat that anybody could gulp.”

“We can protect ourselves and we have seen when the crime against women actually happened, the government was found wanting. We saw it in Hathras and Unnao. In Deoband, an eight-year-old was assaulted,”she said.

Backing the winner

Ms Usmani said she was offered ticket from the Congress but she refused because the party had no base in western U.P. Similarly, she considered Asaduddin Owaisi as the best Muslim leader but his party also didn’t stand a chance in the electoral politics of the region. “One should ride the horse that can at least compete and hence SP is only choice,” she said.

Ms Usmani refrained from speaking about the CAA, as it is “not an issue anymore.”

“We found the BJP leadership took its word back on the NRC. Even the NPR was postponed because of the COVID. The BJP ‘s attitude seems diluted on the issue. If it comes up again, I am ready to stand for the community,”she added.

'Apolitical movement'

However, Fouzia Usmani, the vice-president of the MKC doesn’t agree with Ms. Iram, and said the CAA/ NRC would remain a factor influencing Muslim voters. “It is like the government has repealed the farm laws, but the farmers know that if the BJP government returned with a majority, it would like to push them through,” she said.

Ms Fouzia and her sister Aamna Roshi were among those who led the protests against the Act. “It was an apolitical movement and it should remain so. We didn’t withdraw the movement. We only suspended it and have preserved the bangles that we had left at the protest site in the Idgah Maidan,” she said. She added that both siblings were offered tickets to contest the Assembly election but they refused.

A post-graduate in political science, Ms Fouzia said the BJP government failed to live upto its credo of sabka saath, sabka vishwas. “Had that been the case, this government would not have faced so many protests from diverse groups. The BJP government worked to protect the interests of only a few,” she charged.

Instead, she said, the government tried to create a divide in communities by interfering in their personal issues. “The Triple Talaq law was a personal matter of Muslims but by bringing the law, the government had tried to tap the 20% Muslim women who think differently.”

Magnifying differences

Similarly, in the case of hijab, she said, an attempt was being made by vested interests to divide people. “The government is itself saying mask your face during the pandemic. What else does the hijab do? It protects you from harm. It could be micro-organisms or unwanted attention. In small towns, many girls, irrespective of their faith, do it,” she pointed out.

The government, she said, should focus on providing quality education in schools and colleges rather than on who is covering her nose and what is in her lunchbox. “Deoband lacks educational facilities for women,” she said.

Shaheen Ansari, a student of B.Sc Medical Lab Technology in Delhi, said the hijab did come in the way of befriending non-Muslim students. “I did IAS coaching in Delhi but only two-three girls understood the value of hijab for me and that I am as good or as bad as them. I get a sense that others are deliberately maintaining distance. I wonder how would I work if such issues kept coming up in society.”

In the supposedly conservative town, known for the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom, the anti-CAA movement has empowered women. “Earlier, we were questioned even for going out for shopping, not anymore,” said Rizwana.

However, concerns like women allowing entry to pray in mosques have yet to touch them. “Mosques are for men. We can pray at home. It is convenient otherwise who would take care of the kids,” she added.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2022 12:27:13 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-assembly/anti-caa-protesters-push-political-boundaries-in-deoband/article65045997.ece