Bilkis Bano, an 82-year-old woman who featured in Time magazine’s list of The 100 Most Influential People of 2020, for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood, on Tuesday said she would continue to oppose the new citizenship laws till their demands are met, The Wire reported. “If we don’t raise our voice, if we don’t come out of our houses, how will the government know that we have an issue?” she asked.
Bano was speaking at a press conference organised by Saheli, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, National Federation of Indian Women and others on Tuesday, to celebrate her recognition by the Time magazine.
Besides Bano, former member of the Planning Commission Syeda Hameed, general secretary of NFIW Annie Raja, journalist Bhasha Singh, Delhi University’s Poonam Batra and PUCL’s Vertika Mani, were the other speakers. The press conference was moderated by Vani Subramanian from Saheli.
Eighty two-year-old Bano, who is fondly known as the “Dadi of Shaheen Bagh”, said that their fight right now was with the coronavirus. “Then we will take forward our conversation on NRC and CAA,” she added. “The students who have been incarcerated should be released. How will they get educated behind bars? My wish is that they study and reach great heights in their lives.”
When asked about the inspiration for the protests, Bano said it was the violence that broke out in Jamia Millia Islamia University that first prompted her to raise her voice. “I could not stand that,” she told Go News in an interview. “The students there are our children. It does not matter if they are Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, they came there to get education.”
On December 15, violence had broken out near the Jamia Millia Islamia University after an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest march by students ended in a pitched battle with the police. The police were accused of using excessive force to quell the demonstrations, and storming the campus.
At the event on Tuesday, the women activists condemned the Delhi Police’s investigation into the February riots and arrest of several anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters.
“Even as we proudly acknowledge Bilkis Dadi, we are outraged at Delhi Police’s malicious investigation that has projected our peaceful movement for Equal Citizenship, against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) as some sinister conspiracy to cause the terrible Delhi riots,” Saheli said in a statement.
The rights group spoke of women’s roles in the CAA protests and said they led the “Equal citizenship movement” because they know from our lives the dangers that CAA-NRC present.
Yet, an embedded media tried to malign us by saying that women were being paid 500 rupees to sit on protest. Now, the Delhi Police has emulated that shameful effort, to demean, and target this movement and all who stood with it. In its charge sheets, peaceful women have been portrayed as rioters who hid knives under their burkhas, and carried mirchi powder to spread violence. Sometimes they are presented as calculating and evil and out to destroy India, and at other times as being mindlessly provoked to violence. We condemn this misogynistic and dangerous fiction - it belongs in the trash can of patriarchy.— Saheli, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, National Federation of Indian Women
The group said that such a “twisted investigation” and the mindset it revealed has no place in India of the 21st century, and no place in a criminal legal process.