Since December, people across the country have mobilized to protest against the Amended Citizenship Act, which is being deemed discriminatory in nature. Several attempts to paint the movement as belonging to a particular community have come unfounded as people across religious, ethnic, and gender identities joined the movement. It has been observed that women have often expressed their solidarity with a range of movements in general; however, most of those movements have been male-led.
What I think makes this movement different from the others is the presence of women at the forefront taking the streets. Braving the harsh cold winters of Delhi, the women in areas like Shaheen Bagh, Hauz Rani, Jaffrabad have emerged as the principal opponents of the Act.
Holding the Indian national flag and the copies of the Constitution while chanting patriotic slogans make for some powerful imagery. After having observed these protests closely, I believe that most of these women come from conservative families who have spent a significant amount of their lives living within the defined patriarchal boundaries.
Their inception into the movement as principal participants happened in the aftermath of Jamia violence. This transition into political awareness did not just change the social setup for them, but the people around them as well. They have begun to view themselves as individuals beyond their social ties.
As they participate in meetings discussing the social and political implications of the law, they have gradually started to see themselves as a stakeholder rather than a passive observer. In some instances, I have observed that the implications of the participation of the women in these political spaces are now being felt in their domestic spaces as well.
This is because their presence in such spaces not only confronts the discriminatory nature of the law but also translates into challenging the unequal distribution of power in their homes. The women, most of whom are homemakers, balance their household chores with their activism, with men and children aiding them, thus breaking the age-old patriarchal stereotypes.
These protest spaces have also created endless solidarity and sensitization to political discourses amongst the women, along with exposing them to a diverse array of participants. The movement has forged solidarities across gender, class, caste, religion, and ethnicities, with women being an essential witness to this inter-identity cooperation. The politicization of these women has sustained the movement, garnering media attention from across the world.
These women have braced backlash from certain sections of the media, trolls, and the right-wing community. They have been misrepresented, and some have even been threatened with physical and sexual harm as well. Yet they are not deterred and stand firm to protect the unity and diversity of the country. There is a lot that the movements across the world can learn from these women. The invisible has become visible.