hold placards as they raise slogans during a demonstration against the
Citizenship Amendment Act outside Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi
“Tere Maathey Ka Ye Aa’nchal Bahut Hi Khoob Hai
Lekin/ Tuu Is Aa’nchal Se Ek Parcham Bana Leti To Achcha Tha (
This veil of your forehead is very good but/ If
you would have made a flag from this veil, it would be better).”
couplet was written by Majaz Lakhnawi (1911-1955), who was very much active
when India became independent following Partition on religious grounds. These
lines were from his poem, “Naujawan Khatoon se Khitaab (Address to a Young
Lady)”, which was composed in pre-divided India to instil the nationalistic
spirit and fearlessness in women against a British rule that was increasingly
becoming tyrannical. Majaz found in women a great potential of fighting spirit
and fearlessness, which were necessary to deepen the impact of the freedom
As a poet
of the Progressive Writers’ movement, he had a firm belief in the secular
foundations of India that were laid down by the Constitution. He, like other
poets figured in this article, rejected the idea of a new Muslim country and
continued to instil in people love and faith for India through poetry.
by Majaz seem to be coming alive 72 years after Independence as young women
filled with love for India rise in protest, breaking the sartorial and
behavioural stereotypes attached with their feminine and religious self.
female students — mostly hijab-clad — that emerged from Jamia Millia Islamia
and Aligarh Muslim University, standing at the forefront of the protests and
shouting slogans fearlessly against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the
National Register of Citizens caught the attention of the media.
what shook the conscience of the people were the images of female students
during the brutal attack by an armed police in Jamia on December 15, 2019.
These photographs showed them facing police brutality fearlessly and rescuing
their male friends from the lathis of the police.
of hijab-clad students — they are usually misunderstood and their political
consciousness underestimated — captured the popular imagination and spurred
many in the student community to rise in protest against the present regime.
Their struggle is to safeguard the secular character of the Constitution during
a time when right-wing fundamentalism has been strategically transformed into
various forms of populism that appeal more swiftly to the psyche of the common
feminine outburst spontaneous or transient? It is a result of built-up dismay
over the exclusionist and incongruent policies of the present regime. Though
they bore other forms of social and political persecutions over this period of
time, silently enduring the CAA and the NRC went beyond their cognitive
resistance also comes from their sensibilities of the natural rights of a
citizen of India that are being challenged. Their protests on the streets in
biting cold are also their assertion that no regime should question their
status as natural citizens of India.
It is an
attempt to reclaim their space in the political and educational realms in
India, which they thought belonged to them. Their anxieties also emerge from
the experience of the psychological persecution of their community, with its
loyalty towards India being questioned time and again.
In the past
four to five decades, Muslim women in India have struggled to create a space
for themselves in the public sphere by striving against the patriarchal
normative of their own community. Their internal struggle proved to be
impactful as they felt protected by the Constitution, which instilled in them
fearlessness to fight against domestic oppression. Moreover, their mobility
from smaller towns to cosmopolitan cities for education exposed them to a world
of opportunities and possibilities to express their talent and skills. Over a
period of time, they have also built intimate networks based on friendship,
love and, above all, humanity — universal emotions defying the perimeters of
religion, region and caste. The sight of their new world crumbling before the
communalized agenda of Hindutva shook them and brought them out on to the
is visible on the streets because the constitutional security that worked as a
shield for them in their internal struggle for liberty is being snatched away
through the CAA and the NRC. The very fact that they are on the streets does
not show them to be ‘unpatriotic’. On the contrary, it testifies to the fact
that they still feel protected by the Constitution that gives them the right to
university students, women were seen in large numbers registering their
resistance against the legislation in many parts of the country. In Aligarh
itself, more than 1,000 women sat on the road on December 16 to pressurize the
police to release detained students.
in the perception of men towards women is also visible throughout the movement.
For them, women are no longer docile entities but active political actors to be
kept at the forefront of the protests.
need to include women in the political struggle was felt during the freedom
movement when nationalist leaders and poets alike appealed to women to come out
on to the streets against British imperialism.
Gandhiji sought the active participation of women in the freedom struggle,
poets of his time encouraged them to be significant actors in national
from Salam Machhli Shahri’s poem, “Dulhan (The Bride)”, tell us about the
expectations of men from their prospective brides during politically turbulent
times. They appeal to women to break the shackles of modesty associated with
their existence and become active participants in the rebellion against the
“Mujhe To Hamdam O Hamraz Chahiye Aisi/ Jo Dast
E Naaz Mein Khanjar Bhi Ho Chupaaye Huye/ Nikal Parey Sar E Maidaan Udaa Ke
Aanchal Ko/ Baghaawaton Ka Muqaddas Nishaan Banaye Huye/ Utha Ke Haath Kahe
(I need a partner and a confidante/ Who does
hide a dagger in her delicate hands,/ And goes out at the frontier, shedding
her veil/ Leaving a sign of devout rebellion,/ She raises her hands and hails
written in a different temporal and political context, these lines still hold
significance and show that the role of Muslim women in shaping the political
consciousness should not be underestimated.
students pose a graver challenge as they are intellectually equipped to
understand the political strategy of the right-wing ideologues where basket
categories such as ‘nationalism’ and ‘mythical history’ are used to create
national ‘heroes’ by invoking a glorious past wherein only Hindus were the
legitimate citizens of India.
heroes also require villains to be counterpoised against them so that they
could garner some chivalrous validity. The most convenient thing in this
already vulnerable situation is to pick villains from the ‘Other’ communities
and present them as illegal immigrants and foreigners in order to further their
politics of structural exclusion.
trajectory of their actions and armed attacks on students highlight an
organized effort to silence any form of dissenting voices that can be a threat
Jamia were pointed targets for them as they could also garner communal mileage
by presenting the students as betrayers of the nation and, ultimately,
betrayers of the majority population, which, according to Hindutva, can only
have a primordial connection with the ‘nation’.
obscurantist methods, however, did not appeal to a large mass of rational minds
that universities produce. The youths of the country — not governed by the
normative of religious divisions — stood up in solidarity, not merely to
reclaim their constitutional rights but also to reclaim India where they can
Jafri’s poem, “Jawaani”, echoes the spirit of the youth that surrounds us
“Haqiqat Se Meri Kyuu’n Bekhabar Duniya E Faani
Hai/ Baghawat Mera Maslak, Mera Mazhab Naujawaani Hai
(Why is this transitory world ignorant of my
reality?/ Rebellion is my aim, Youth is my religion).”
Aziz is an assistant professor in the department of history, Aligarh Muslim
Headline: Rising together as one
Source: The Telegraph India