Opinion: The Women-Led Movement In Shaheen Bagh Is Defying All Conventions

Yesterday, I experienced one of the most beautiful days of my life—I, along with some of my friends, went to Shaheen Bagh. The moment we reached there, we were in awe and full of admiration of the sight: brave women with their unfazed spirits peacefully protesting against the unacceptable CAA, its implementation, against the violence unleashed in JNU, JMI, AMU and against every injustice in different parts of the country including Assam and Kashmir.

For almost two months now, the extreme cold weather hasn’t swayed their resolve in any way. We got the opportunity to serve them by distributing biscuits, food, and we also got the opportunity to interact with them, to know more about their personal lives, and how these women have left behind their normal lives and daily routine without hesitating once to join the movement. Their real life stories are a true source of inspiration for us. But they were even happier to see us there and by the support coming from the youth towards the movement.

But what followed was even more overwhelming. As it was time for lunch, they got us biryani, and we asked them to save it for the children instead. They requested us and hugged us saying: “khali pet jung nahi ladi jati, tum bhi hamari ladkiyan ho, khalo, khane ka waqt hogaya hai.” And this is exactly the India that we talk about; the idea of secular India filled with the warmth of love, care— irrespective of religion or language, instead of the cold-hearted communal hatred.

Rizwana aunty, a woman from Shaheen Bagh, who has been looking after the overall management of the movement, said “We are managing everything here peacefully with utmost love. We even request our fellow brothers and sisters to not engage in any kind of violence because we don’t want to give any opportunity to the police to put us in jail. We will carry on the movement in a peaceful manner. Due to the ongoing unrest my son has not been able to go to school for 29 days, but we will ensure the movement continues smoothly.”

Shaheen Bagh
For almost two months now, the extreme cold weather hasn’t swayed the resolve of the women protesting in Shaheen Bagh in any way.

“Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.”

“When women support each other, incredible things happen.”

The women of Shaheen Bagh are justifying these quotes and reflecting them in the truest essence. The question that often gets me wondering is: if it weren’t for the managing/organising skills or the loving and caring nature of women, would the movement have been as successful as it is today? Feminine qualities, which have stereotypically been projected as “weak” in gendered power structures in a gendered society, have once again proved to be the strongest qualities of women, which essentially not only sustains a group/family/tribe but binds them together, making them stronger than ever.

These are the qualities that women seem to have traditionally inherited in their very nature by their upbringing and other psychological influences. Still, in the light of the ongoing decades-long gendered violence against women in the domestic sphere and other spheres of public domain, we have somewhere failed as a society even to acknowledge these qualities of women. An acknowledgement which they deserve without any doubt.

There is a lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for the daily work done by women—be it in the context of domestic sphere or workplace (unequal pay, restrictions on dress code in some corporate institutions, and other rights for women in workplaces), or be it the thousands of rape cases, dowry cases, murder cases that we come across in the newspapers every other day in this country. But the women of Shaheen Bagh are making history, rising like the Phoenix. They shall be remembered as a huge example of women empowerment for future generations.

Also, last but not least, we must not forget the zeal and unshakable spirit of all the volunteers working day and night there to ensure everyone’s safety and hygiene. The adorable children who are volunteering effortlessly and continuously and are even more mature, more sensitive than the elderly in some respects.

After all, this revolution is not about winning or losing; it’s about achieving self-realisation and the journey of transformation of self and society.

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