Other States

Women playing prominent role in anti-CAA, NRC protests

Anti-CAA-NRC protesters in Deoband.

Anti-CAA-NRC protesters in Deoband.  

‘Many men are discovering the latent talent of their women’

The polite rejection of the advice of the Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband by women protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens in the Idgah ground for the last 14 days has revealed how Muslim women are not only fighting to save the Constitution, they are also grappling with a social battle within the community.

Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani had advised the women to give up their protest for the time being during a meeting with the district administration.

“We came out only when the clergy and the political parties failed us. We respect the Mohatamim but we didn’t take Darul Uloom’s permission to start the sit-in protest. Why would we take it back on their advice,” asks Fouzia, one of the five women, who formed the Murtahida Khawatin Committee that is guiding the protest. Such was the impact that the seminary had to issue a clarification within 24 hours that it was not against the protest.

“It took us 20 days to convince women around us to come out in protest of this kala kanoon (black law) that threatens our existence in the country which our forefathers chose to live and die for,” says the postgraduate in Political Science. “Agar aaj ghar se nahin nikalenge, toh kal desh se nikal diye jayenge (If we don’t come out of homes today, tomorrow we would be thrown out of the country),” she says.

‘Beginning of a new era’

Young Faizy Usmani, whose aunt and cousins are protesting, says it is the beginning of a “new era”. “Many men are discovering the latent talent of their women during these protests as many of us never thought they could hold stage so convincingly,” he says.

Iram Usmani, who runs a primary school, says they were getting complete support from family members. “But, we don’t allow men on stage during the protest because we follow purdah system. We take their message in writing and one of us read it out to the audience,” says Ms. Usmani. When the instant Triple Talaq was criminalised, she remarks, PM Modi described it as empowering legislation for Muslim women. “We didn’t protest even though it was against the Shariat. Why is his government, doubting our intentions and intelligence now when we are protesting to save our Constitution,” she wonders.

‘No support of clergy’

Similarly, in Aligarh’s Shahjamal area hundreds of burqa-clad women are sitting on protest for more than 15 days. Mostly from poor and lower-middle-class families, their concern is that they might not have the papers to pass the NRC test. Maryam, a young woman felt that the clergy didn’t stand with them after a couple of days. “The Mufti was under so much pressure of the administration that he could not take a stand when we went to see a detained journalist who had come to cover our protest,” she says.

The male family members don’t join the protest but they keep an eye on the protesters. They often don’t allow media persons to talk to women as they feel they might say something that is against the movement.

In this part of the world, there is a common tendency among men to describe a group of women discussing something as “chen chen kar rahin hain”. “It could be loosely translated as making noise. But with the anti-CAA-NRC protest, it has become a voice,” says Ayesha Munira, professor of English in Aligarh Muslim University.

Prof. Munira, who specialises in gender studies, feels the protests are “life-changing” and “empowering” for many Muslim women, particularly from weaker sections. “They have come out on their own. Once the protest ends, patriarchy will try to take over again but I don’t think women will be easily relegated to four walls. They know their voices are being heard by the country and they are leading a movement.”

This, she says, could have made many maulanas “insecure”. “The right-wingers on both sides share common traits. They feel women have no agency. Women are resisting both, as it is a matter of survival for their families,” she says.

Feeling the heat

The district authorities in these cities are also feeling the heat because they don’t know how to engage with the women in burqa. Talking to senior police officers in Saharanpur and Aligarh reveal involving clergy in negotiating with women was not as effective as it was with men during the December 20 protests.

“The clergy had a role in instant Triple Talaq, but it was ignored. In CAA-NRC, where they have no role, they are being pressurised to issue appeals. Those in power in Delhi and U.P. don’t have to negotiate with women in their family life. How will they negotiate with us? Still, we are waiting,” says a protester in Aligarh.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:50:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/women-playing-prominent-role-in-anti-caa-nrc-protests/article30777618.ece

Next Story