On stage, there were actors Swara Bhaskar and Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, comedian Sanjay Rajoura and poet Gauhar Raza; and off stage, there was 35-year-old Nargis from Batla House, her sister-in-law, nieces, and neighbours. Amongst the adults sat five-year-old Aaliya, Nargis’ daughter, with a toothy smile. If anyone asked why she was in a gathering of several hundreds on a cold afternoon, she said it was for “Azaadi”.
They, along with hundreds of students and locals from Zakir Nagar, Shaheen Bagh and Batla House, had gathered at Jamia Millia Islamia’s gate number 7 on the afternoon of January 1 for the ‘Artists in Solidarity with Jamia’ protest.
Rajoura came on stage and evoked ‘Kisi ke baap ka Hindostan thodi hai’ from poet Rahat Indori’s 30-year-old ghazal. He said, “They are trying to scare away students with abuses and lathi-charge, but students are never afraid. Inn he pata nahi hai inhone kinn se panga liya hai.”
Bhaskar, known best for her work in Anaarkali of Aarah and Tanu Weds Manu, recited poet-lyricist Varun Grover’s viral poem ‘Hum Kaagaz Nahi Dikhayenge’, as many joined in chorus. “Woh lathi charge chalayenge, hum kagaz nahi dikhayenge, woh metro band kar jaayenge, hum paidal chal ke aayenge, hum kaagaz nahi dikhayenge,” she said.
Just a few metres away, students sat on the pavement and painted slogans on chart papers. The boundary walls on either side of the road had photos of B R Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, and posters that read, “Say no to Islamphobia,” “Say no to Bigotry,” “Save India, Save Democracy,” among others.
As the protest ended a little before 5 pm, Nargis said, “This is a fight for the present and for the future, for me and my daughter Aaliya. I came here regularly for a few days at first, but then got busy with household work. I wanted to be here for the right issue on the first day of the year.”
Also at the protest, with two toddlers in tow, was another woman from Shaheen Bagh. “During the day I come to Jamia with my children to protest, and at night I sit with the hundreds of women at Shaheen Bagh. It’s my way of fighting the new Citizenship law. Also, what will you do with my name? We are all saying the same thing and I represent a common citizen of India,” she said.
A night ago at the Shaheen Bagh protest, as a new year was rung in with slogans, poems, songs and chants of Azaadi, hundreds from across the capital found their way to the spot where women have been protesting day and night for over two weeks now.
The new year was ushered in with the National Anthem, followed by chants of “Inquilab Zindabad” under the bright light of hundreds of mobile phones that waved in the chilly air.
Actor Zeeshan, who was present at the Shaheen Bagh protest till early Wednesday morning, said, “Yeh desh aise hi bana rahe, Samvidhan hi yaha raaj kare aur hum logo ko mil jul ke rehna hai. Naya Saal mubarak.”
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