The burkha is gone. But she is yet to settle in. Shirin Dalvi, former Mumbai bureau editor of Urdu daily Avadhnama, who was embroiled in controversies after publishing the same cartoon that had resulted in the Charlie Hebdo attacks says she is struggling to make both ends meet. This month she had to sell her jewellery and look to borrowing money to keep her kitchen running and send her children to school.
Dalvi is also making routine rounds to the Bombay High Court for hearings on her bail application.
On January 17 this year, Dalvi had reproduced the Charlie Hebdo cover that depicted Prophet Mohammad in a caricature little knowing what consequences it could lead to. On January 19, she was removed from the editor’s post. The tabloid too had to shut. On January 28, the Thane police booked and arrested her “for outraging religious feelings” with “malicious intent” under Section 295 A of the IPC. In the following fortnight six FIRs were registered against her.
Dalvi was forced to go underground, taking refuge at her friends’ and relatives’ residences. She even started wearing a veil to avoid identification. It was only in May, four months later, that she returned to her house.
While she no more needs to hide herself behind a burkha, Dalvi claims her attempts to get a job in the Urdu media have been fruitless. She currently writes a daily column, ‘In Dino’, for free in the Hindustan Urdu Daily. “I am only writing without payment to use my columns as a platform to sustain myself in the market,” she says, as she sits at the Charni-Road located Saifee hospital, after recently undergoing a nose surgery to stop blood clotting. The hospital fees was paid by money borrowed from friends.
Looking at her fingers now, she says, “I had six gold rings. Had to sell them one by one.”
Two different NGOs have come to her aid. While ‘Hum Azaadi Ke Haq Me’ is supporting her legally, another NGO, Akshara Group, has assured to handle her younger daughter’s Class XII education. Her elder son is currently preparing for TY BCom exams.
“I could not focus on exams last time due to all this. I am studying once more now,” he said. He failed in two subjects in his fourth semester while running around to aid his mother.
Dalvi alleges the male-dominated Urdu media has shut its doors on her, except for one or two people.
In the last six months, she earned Rs 22,000 through various means, including translation of books into Urdu.
“It was a mistake. I should have looked at the cartoon before it went for print. I don’t know for how long I will have to pay for that mistake,” she says.