This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Afreen Firdaus Idrees. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How My Family Survived The Aftermath Of Babri Demolition When I Was 4

I had turned four in the winter of 1992. My fragmented memories of that winter, 24 winters ago are like a dream. It can’t be put on scrapbooks, cannot be documented and cannot be said much about either. But, they aren’t forgettable either. In retrospect, I am not so sure where my individual recollections of those painful days and curfewed nights end, and that of those whose lives were lived alongside mine, begin. Our complex memories, like our complex lives, have fused. That is how memory works and makes us remember things.

I am told that there was a zamana (time) when the then cable TVs were unhurriedly making their way into upper-middle class, metropolitan homes in Calcutta. In our ancestral home in central Calcutta, it wasn’t till about five years later, that the cable TV (no longer a status symbol) would make its advent and create a new ‘imagined community’ out of us, the cultural exclusions notwithstanding. December 6 was a Sunday morning just like any other, mamujaan tells me. He had been flying kites when the khabar (news) reached him from neighbours living in other parts of the city, whose voices over the telephone kept breaking. “Babri Masjid ko Shaheed kiya jaa raha hai.” (Babri masjid is being martyred.) It was not a rumour after all. BBC, then looked upon as the only reliable informant about happenings not only the world over but in our own country had flashed the news in India. We didn’t get BBC, back then, on our TV set which came with a wooden box which had a beetle antenna. The only channel we did get was the state-owned Doordarshan (DD) and the Narasimha Rao-led government had resorted to censoring every little news associated with the demolition, having failed to prevent it from happening.

Communal violence rocked the country. News and rumour mill travelled – of incidents where people were being butchered by menacing mobs, of bombs being thrown on individual Muslim homes, of the arson of shops owned by Muslims. Such stories had a way of finding us each day and showed no signs of ebbing. It was for the first time, at the age of four, that this cartography of khauf (fear) came to inform my life. Even though it wasn’t the first encounter with fear for those in my family who were survivors and witnesses of the unspeakable horrors of 1964. For them, there were many quieter warnings triggered by memories of past riots.

Our fear, as it were, came to be augmented because we lived in isolation in a place where no other Muslim families lived. It was not a densely populated Muslim ghetto where insularity would mean some semblance of safety, but an old Waqf estate with a grand mosque and imambara in its precincts. Its religious identity, its ‘Muslimness’ was in your face. Any violence against us in the realm of our now ‘unsafe’ home wouldn’t shock anyone!

So, in search of that elusive security of our lives in those volatile days, we fled our homes leaving behind almost all our belongings. But, it wasn’t possible to leave together. Only the women and children would leave and the men would stay behind. It was decided. nannan (maternal grandmother) and khalajaan (maternal aunt) who had brought me up, were to go and stay with a relative living in Muslim quarters of the city who could only accommodate them. My ammi (mother) who hadn’t brought me up, Zahra (my sister) and I, were sentenced to go live in a ghetto indefinitely, with a relative who would take us in.

I remember having trouble falling asleep when it was time to sleep. I remember crying into someone’s else’s pillow while lying on someone else’s bed, for my nannan and khalajaan, in those cold, curfewed nights, when lights were turned out, till the wee hours of the morning. I remember ammi trying, and failing, to comfort me or calm me down. She was also separated from her mother and paralysed with fear. I remember ammi praying and encouraging us to send prayers for the safety of those we had been separated from. When I was inconsolable for days on end, nannan was informed over the phone, “Firdaus bohot zidd kar rahi hai… betahasha ro rahi hai aur ek hi ratt lagaye baithi hai ke Nannan ke paas jana hai, hum ko le chalo. (Firdaus throws tantrums… is not able to control herself and constantly pleads, I want to go to my grandmother, take me there).”

Soon after that, we were reunited. We could finally return home where the men had risked their lives to keep vigil. We had survived 1992.

You must be to comment.

More from Afreen Firdaus Idrees

Similar Posts

By Devansh Mishra

By Priyaranjan Kumar

By Tanmay Varshanant

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below