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Roar of the Lioness : Shaheen Bagh
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salman farissi 2020

Salman Farissi

salman farissi 2020Religion and Politics have most often shown derision towards the fairer sex – women. Patriarchy was rampant across the globe but history has been a gentle friend of women as when stories were told and historians started writing and narrating them, the real power of the fairer sex began dominating the arena of narratives.

Throughout history, when societies were driven to the brink of their culture and identity, women have shown the mettle to rise above the shackles that society has thrown at them. At the peak of the French revolution, It was women who came to the streets demanding the right for universal franchise and how this movement ended up being called the mother of all revolutions in the world is well known.

India has been ridden by Patriarchs, be it in the major religions or political parties of the landscape. The veracity of patriarchy for women was not its dominance but its hypocrisy that was at its core. As this became prominent, women were thrown to the edge and this made them ‘roar’- to assert their rights – which was heard even across the Himalayas. It was when her husband died leaving behind a young child with her that she was forced to take up the sword against the tyranny of the colonialists threatening her kingdom. As history tells us, she battled the British with the vigor and vitality of a lioness that no men could ever emulate- thus the legend of Jhansi Rani was born. Man’s apathy and hypocrisy with pleasure driven malevolence have seen giving rise to decadent practices in the name of religion in India. The Devadasi system, which made young girls de facto prostitutes. The practice of Sati, which forced widows to jump into the burning pyre of their husbands. All these practices forced women to rise. And they did rise through Savitri Bai Pule. With the help of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and her husband Jyotirao Phule, she managed to bring an end to many of these vile practices and dreamed of empowering women. In the present day, as Indian Supreme Court is bound to hear petitions regarding another vile practice in the Dawoodi-Bohra community of female genital mutilation, Delhi has become the rape capital of the world. It is estimated that in India a rape happens every hour. In such a scenario, rather than taking cognizance of facts, the Indian State ruled by BJP and its parent organization-RSS, is in denial. They go on heralding around the idea of ‘Indians doesn’t indulge in vile, immoral acts and are pure, civilized people who are virtuous by birth’. The Hindu-Aryan Supremacy utopia is the soul of Hindu Rashtra which the ruling party is striving for is no secret. This desperate situation has made history repeat itself and once again, women are seen taking the battle reins against an authoritarian regime that is openly flirting with Nazism. The story of Shaheen Bagh started with the passing of CAA on December 12th. The story of female takeover and victory is not restricted to humans. Females in the animal kingdom have then and there taken the role of ‘the knight in the shining armor’ when men failed.

The Lioness

In the animal kingdom, Lion is the king who is bigger and stronger than his female counterpart-lioness. He sits there looking after his pride and stands up when another lion threatens his position. A lion king’s role ends there. It is his queens who hunt the larger wildebeests, much stronger wild buffalo, agile zebra and protects the pride from the mighty elephants, chases away the vile Hyenas. It is the queens who give birth to young cubs and nurtures them till they become beasts like their parents. It is the queen which saves her cubs when their father king gets killed by an emerging king and then has his eyes set on the cubs. As the new king takes upon the reins his first step is to annihilate all traces of the previous king which he starts by going after the previous king’s cubs. In this cruel and apathetic world, as the innocent cubs are playing together, copying their mother’s heroics in the hunt of the wild buffalo, the new king slowly walks up to them pretending to be wandering around knowing that their mother is in the battlefield fighting with a Hyena over a hard-earned kill. The new king suddenly pounces upon the kids and bites one. A shriek was heard,

‘Maa…’,

The wind carried the sound to the ears of their mother. In the next moment, the queen slaps the Hyena at the front and runs up to her cubs. The cub bit by the new king lay on the ground as fear consumes him watching the king looking at him devilishly.

“ROAR!”

The queen pounced at his front and within a nick of time carried her cub with her teeth and ran. After, keeping the young cub in a safe location at the company of other queens, she runs back as the new king has got his eyes set for her other children.

“ROAR!”

The king got distracted as the queen jumped in between him and her children. With eyes set ablaze with maternal anger, she slapped him with her right paw. The king was taken aback by this sudden backlash. He looked at her, their eyes met one another. They started walking around,

‘This is my kingdom, there is no room for my enemy’s children here’, roared the new king.

‘This is my children, you won’t come near them!’, the lioness spoke with her eyes.

‘I will kill them!’

‘Only through my dead body!’

‘So be it!’

The new king pounced at her but she tactfully dodged it and bit him at his mane. He roared in pain and slapped her face with his right paw. She groaned in pain but the blaze in her eyes blew with more fury.

‘You shall not take my children!’ She roared and jumped. The king’s right forelimb was bitten by the queen. As she bit and moved back, blood was dripping from her canine teeth. The king was taken aback by the queen’s audacity. His pride attacked by a female. He looked at her for mercy.

‘Never even think of going near my children!, I am their mother!’, She roared, its fury made the birds resting near the river fly away, zebras and wildebeests shook with fear.

Defeated, the king walked away.

As the queen went back to her children playing with their stepmothers, her face was bleeding. Her children ran up to her when they saw her. She licked them with the affection that only maternal love can pour as the wound on her face slowly dripped blood. She searched for her son who was bitten. Her son was there lying down with fear more than pain in between the other queens. The other queens made way for her. She sat there and took her son into her hand fold and kept there. She licked at his wound on his belly. She licked at it until the cub fell asleep.

Other queens looked at her, they saw her right cheek reddened with blood. The valley had not seen such a fiery battle for long, even the battle between the kings was less pronounced. The new king was thought of as a rogue who had no feelings and was much feared in the valley. He made the rules in the pride and nobody else had any authority. But, today something changed. For the first time after he took the reins, he felt insecure. The new king’s head was bowed down.

The other queens looked from the king to the queen, she was slowly dozing off to sleep. After 5 odd minutes, she shook off from her sleep and looked around for her cub anxiously. He saw him lying below her belly taking cover in the maternal warmth. She felt relieved and looked at the king seated far from them. She has seen four kings in her lifetime, none as fierce and authoritative as the present one. The new king killed the old king within five minutes. The pride and strength of the new king were unmatchable. The valley served him in fear for long, not anymore, not when children like hers are threatened. She roared as the valley shook in fear,

‘NEVER EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!’

Shaheen Bagh and the present turn of events

On March 13th, 2020, the protest in Shaheen Bagh was on its 101st day of street protest. Shaheen Bagh is a Muslim dominated locality in the Natonal Capital Region, Delhi, India. What is spectacular is the protest being led by women and girls from the front while men get involved in crowd management. This is a classic example of women taking the reins when they are pushed to the edge. Journalists report the apprehensions of Indian Muslim women from Shaheen Bagh who braves the chilling colds to sit and chant patriotic slogans by flying the Tricolour Indian National flag. When asked they say that they fear for the safety and future of their children living in the RSS-BJP’s idea of ‘Hindu-Rashtra’. They go on to say that this peaceful protest will go on till they are sure to see a secular India in all its vigor. The Indian state instead of taking note of the situation has taken a peculiar stance. When they saw that the protest at Shaheen Bagh is spreading like wildfire, they began rumor-mongering. Their claims include:

1) The protesters at Shaheen Bagh are given money to protest

2) The protesters are shouting ‘Anti-National’ slogans

3) The slogans are aimed at dividing India.z

4) The protesters indulge in stealing and Vandalism of public property.

The authenticity of the claims is bogus and aims at building a narrative to polarise the Indian Populace.

Shaheen Bagh protesters are mostly women of all age groups and anyone coming to Shaheen Bagh is not allowed to patronize any political party. There is no credible evidence for the first claim. Besides, the Delhi Police and Uttar Pradesh Police actions denote the suspicion towards the opposite direction of the Indian State trying their level best to destroy the peaceful protest. They have tried bullying tactics by blocking the highway towards the Shaheen Bagh area to deny them basic food and other amenities. The protests that have spread across India saw a similar style of woman lead processions and sit-in. Most notably, in Prayag raj, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Banaras, also in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Northeast and Kashmir continue to be in lockdown, the latter has been in shut down for 281 days (the highest globally). Southern India has also seen many major processions. The consistent nature of the protests takes inspiration from Shaheen Bagh.

The other claims about calling the ‘Azadi’ Slogan ‘anti-national’ is outright absurd and irrational. ‘Azadi’ is an Urdu word which means freedom and people are calling for freedom from communalism, mismanagement of the economy, unemployment, poverty, and the whole around sleaze and decadence of Indian Society which has been magnified by the RSS-BJP combine who runs the central government. This debunks the second and third claims. When did asking for one’s rights and criticizing the government for mismanagement of affairs becomes ‘Anti-national’? RSS-BJP’s narrative of equating them with the idea of India by seeing them as the only Indians is reminiscent of Hitler and his Nazi patriots.

There is no credible evidence to substantiate the claims of vandalism or stealing allegations raised against the protesters. Videos from credible news channels like NDTV and The quint shows Uttar Pradesh Police, Delhi Police, and other state government police forces indulging in threatening through verbal and physical abuse of sit-in protesters. It is quite notable that the deaths of protesters that had occurred were in states ruled by BJP governments.

With all the claims debunked, the chief minister of UP has resorted to threatening and bullying of the protesters by himself. This can be seen in his recent speeches which are pointed towards people protesting against CAA. The Home Minister of India and the Prime Minister of India are at the forefront of name-calling and giving out threatening statements to those protesting peacefully against CAA, NRC, and NPR.

According, Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, the right to protest is part of the right to freedom of expression. Recently, this aspect of the Indian Constitution has been firmly reiterated by the Supreme Court and has been strongly mentioned by Delhi High Court in a recent judgment. The Supreme Court has orally made a statement that section 144 is not a tool to be used against peaceful protesters as this section of Indian Penal Code deals with the incarceration of people without an arrest warrant without paying heed to the basic right of the accused to challenge her arrest in court which goes on for an indefinite time.

For an authoritarian government, these tactics to embellish the protests with anti-national tags and setting the narrative with a jingoistic agenda seem to be counter-productive, unlike their previous attempts which are evident from the International response. The comments from the House of commons run by democrats in the US, from the previous Malaysian Prime Minister, with Japan calling off a meeting with the Indian PM and many other events have rung alarm bells for the Indian Government. It is worth noting that the International Scientific Community has condemned the Kashmir Issue through Lancet Journal and Nature Journal has strongly reprimanded the elements behind the assault of students in AMU (Aligarh Muslim University), JMI (Jamia Millia Islamia) and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) which are universities of eminence in the Indian Sub-continent but whose students were mercilessly bashed and incarcerated under the grievous sedition law for protesting against the authoritarian excesses of the government in the educational system of India. The assault upon the students of premier institutions engenders another in-depth article however it is worth mentioning that all three of them have seen girl students studying there taking lead in the protests and the state’s response was that of physical and mental abuse of protesters.

It remains to be seen as to how these events would work out in the coming days. As for the present, it is clear that for the first time in 6 years, the Indian State is feeling the heat both internally and externally. Taking examples from history and animal kingdom, it is prudent in saying that it is not a good idea to drive the fairer sex to the edge and it has always resulted in the perpetrator realizing that the ‘fairer’ is not the ‘weaker’ but the ‘stronger’. In this context, the ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory doesn’t bode well for the RSS-BJP run Indian Government. The present scenario culminates in a message that, ‘Schadenfreude of the RSS-BJP has gone on for too long it is time for Weibermacht to show them their place’

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Salman Farissi is a Research Scholar working in water chemistry at the Central University of Kerala. He hails from Perinthalmanna, Malappuram, Kerala.

 

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