Even as a gunman fired at students and other protesters preparing to march from Jamia Millia Islamia to Gandhi memorial at Rajghat Thursday afternoon, a little distance away, Shaheen Bagh marked Mahatma Gandhi’s 73rd death anniversary by singing some of his favourite bhajans.
On popular demand, singer Ashish Dha sang Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram thrice, with the crowd of women, men and children clapping and joining in the second and third time. He also sang Vaishnav Jan toh. A play and talk on Gandhi were to be held later.
The women of Shaheen Bagh, who are staging a protest on a Noida-Delhi road against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for close to 45 days now, have been marking days of national importance there. On Republic Day, they read the Preamble to the Constitution and hoisted the national flag and had also marked Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary.
Around a week earlier, there were readings from the Bible and the Quran as shabad kirtan gurbani was sung and a havan was held alongside at the protest site in a show of inter-faith harmony in the predominantly Muslim locality.
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Shabana Begum, 48, said, “Bas hamein Gandhiji ke chashme se dekhne ki zarurat hai (We all need to see the world through Gandhi’s glasses).”
Her eyes brimming, Muslimaah, 24, said, “They (this government) cannot ever become him. He looked at all of us equally, any caste or religion.”
The protesters also said their agitation was non-violent, inspired by Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement. “Gandhiji is our role model. Like his protests, our sit-in is peaceful since the first day,” said Afshaan.
It was from January 13th to 18th in 1948 that an anguished Gandhi had fasted post-Partition, for the sake of Hindu-Muslim unity, and to make Muslims feel safe and secure in independent India. Gandhi was killed by a Hindu fanatic just days later, around 15 km from where the Shaheen Bagh women were paying tribute to him.
As the news of the Jamia firing drifted in, in which a student was hurt, there was a wave of concern. Said Hena Ahmad: “We are not in favour of violence. The violence at Jamia today, where a bullet was fired, is a repeat of the same incident that happened in 1948. These are people who believe in the ideology of Godse who killed Mahatma Gandhi. We are fighting against that ideology. We are fighting against the ideology that cheered when Gandhiji was killed, the ideology that believes in burning the Constitution.”
Noor Jahan added, “People want to kill Gandhi’s ideas, we will not let that happen. This is Gandhi’s country. This is a secular country. We are on a satyagraha, much like Gandhiji, against the kaala qanoon (the black law, CAA).”
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