Bilkis Bano, one of the ‘dadis’ of Shaheen Bagh, became the face of the anti-CAA protests in the neighbourhood of southeast Delhi, which triggered the entire nation. Similar protests sprung up in Kolkata, Mumbai, and several other cities that went on for months until the coronavirus pandemic struck the country. Bilkis has been included in Time Magazine’s list of ‘100 Most Influential People of 2020’ for her remarkable contribution in the protests that made the entire nation think over the demolition of democracy in open daylight.
In the Time Magazine article on Bilkis, Rana Ayyub talks of how Bilkis became the symbol of resistance for women and students who were being jailed for exercising their democratic rights. Ayyub remembers the strength Bilkis showed to dream of a just and equal world for her children, writing, “Bilkis, along with thousands of women who joined her in Shaheen Bagh, a neighborhood in New Delhi, became the symbol of resistance in a nation where the voices of women and minorities were being systematically drowned out by the majoritarian politics of the Modi regime. Bilkis gave hope and strength to activists and student leaders who were being thrown behind bars for standing up for the unpopular truth in a democracy that was sliding into authoritarianism, and inspired peaceful copycat protests across the country.”
- Also read: 30 Reasons to reject CAA
The iconic Shaheen Bagh protest was entirely led by women, who stepped out of their homes from the southeast Delhi neighborhood when the Delhi Police forcefully entered the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia and shot bullets and teargas at the students, even at those who were studying in the library, on 15 December 2019. The university students were also actively protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which was seen to be discriminatory and unconstitutional. As a sign of protest against the violence on the students of Jamia, thousands of women battled the cold winters of December and lived in makeshift tents for months at stretch.
The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by the Narendra Modi government that states the provisions of getting the Indian citizenship, based on religion. Only Muslims were excluded from the list of the religions permitted to get the Indian Citizenship and the educated class of the country found it discriminatory and unconstitutional, as the constitution guides to never differentiate on the grounds of religion. This triggered a protest outside the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and slowly spread across the country in December 2019.