Shaheen Bagh and the Political Future of Indian Muslims

The collective essence behind the Shaheen Bagh protest is showing a new face of India’s diverse civilization.

I was very excited to visit Shaheen Bagh protest from the day it was started. My many friends have already visited and described interestingly the way through which protestors particularly Muslim women are still chanting slogan and raising voices against the government’s citizenship amendment bill. But for me, it was a new kind of anti-establishment gathering through which I was more interested to know the pattern and politics of this kind of gathering against the present government’s citizenship amendment bill.

Although, Shaheen Bagh, in itself, is a new experiment and shows people’s anger against the government’s citizenship bill. The place becomes suddenly important not just for news media but also for protesters who opposing government different policies and political activists across the country. Because the place turned into a symbol of unique protest after the brutal crackdown of Jamia Student’s protest against the government’s citizenship amendment bill by the Delhi Police. People from different places came together at Shaheen Bagh showing anger, chanting slogan and raising voices to oppose the government’s new citizenship bill. Initially, it was a spontaneous gathering of women from Jamia locality. Mostly the women who gather at Shaheen Bagh were the mother of who brutally beaten during the Jamia Protest by the Delhi Police. One of a female protester at this place I meet who told the story “I was in the Jamia Library reading a book that day when some people enter in with the police dress beaten me so badly. I was unconscious for many days and not able to do anything else for almost the fifteenth days. For that reason, my mother sits here every day from the morning. But this is not the only one story; several other Muslim women from different places come every day saying the present BJP government is anti-people and is attacking not just over the Muslim but also over the students who are opposing the government policies.

The shaheen Bagh protest, apart from this, has emerged through several other narratives based on anti-establishment and claiming a new paradigm of Muslim politics in Indian. This new paradigm may be understood through two different key characteristics of this protest gathering. First is that the protest does not legitimize the notion of Muslim’s separate identity. The protest site, in this sense, has become a space for liberation where everyone can come to this place to show their anger against the new citizenship act with any form following the idea of non- violence. Therefore, the protest has many shades; it may be amebedkarite or it may be left centric or it may be Gandhian. But it is interesting to know that Hindus and Muslim are together and chanting the slogan, distributing pamphlets with the picture of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh and many other icons. The sole concern among the protesters is to appeal widely with the sprit against the new citizenship bill by replacing and cultural gab among Hindu, Muslim Sikhs and Christianity with liberation and anti-establishment spirit.

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The second key characteristic is that the protest encounters the religious dogma that has been defining Islam as beliefs against other religious faith. Islam, at this place, has emerged to be a source of liberation and humanity for all human beings. The issue of faith in Indian democracy and its constitution is not the question. Everyone is saluting to Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh and showing their strong anger against the traitor of the Indian constitution and the traitor of Ganga-Jamuni Tahjib. Either Muslim speaker or Hindu or other, everyone has the same spirit and the same notion of liberation and humanity. Women from different sections come to this place in a large number every day from morning 10 AM tonight at 12 PM. They use to sit in an organized manner raise slogans and listening speeches of liberation to fight against the traitor of Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Bhagat Singh’s .ideas. The sign of Burka and hijab has become old fashion and this unity shows no one can reclaim the place, the women occupied at this street.

The collective essence behind the shaheen Bagh protest therefore is showing a new face of India’s diverse civilization. It shows a new ground where Muslim will no longer justify their faith in Indian democracy rather they are ready to claim all spaces not just for themselves but also for all human beings who deprived for thousands of years.

Omprakash Kushwaha is Research Associate at Department of Sociology at Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University.

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