After remaining in the oblivion due to the wake of Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in India, the Shaheen Bagh protest is again in the limelight as the valiant women declined to participate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to observe a nationwide one-day lockdown — “Janata Curfew” — on Sunday, March 22nd 2020. The Shaheen Bagh protesters have been vilified repeatedly in the press for continuing their protest demonstration, which is nearing 100 days, amid the Coronavirus outbreak. Shaheen Bagh protest’s defiance of Coronavirus restrictions is magnified out of proportion by Modi’s toady press and the entire Hindutva fascist camp since the protesters refused to budge.
Though Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its parental body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been peddling lies and malicious propaganda to vilify the Shaheen Bagh protesters since December 2019, accusing them of taking money and biryani for participation, waging Islamist jihad, etc, and the BJP even fought the Delhi Assembly election 2020 demonising Shaheen Bagh protest, their attack took a new turn since the Coronavirus outbreak in India. After Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal invoked the provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, to ban gathering of more than 50 people in Delhi, the attack against the Shaheen Bagh protest was intensified by the Hindutva fascist thugs and their lackeys. The Shaheen Bagh protest was accused of being a health hazard and an Islamist conspiracy to spread Coronavirus in Delhi.
Notorious BJP leader Kapil Mishra, the mastermind of the 2020 Delhi anti-Muslim pogrom that killed 53 people officially, accused the Shaheen Bagh protesters of being suicide attackers as they have declined to retreat in face of the Coronavirus threat. Mishra, who is desperate to gain a lucrative position from the BJP after his ignominious defeat in the recently-held Delhi Assembly election, has remained in news for issuing veiled threats to Shaheen Bagh protesters and other such organic protests held by Muslim women against Modi’s new citizenship matrix. But Mishra isn’t the only one.
The corporate-controlled mainstream press, the ruling classes, and all rightwing parties, including Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have been vilifying Shaheen Bagh protest because it’s refusing to capitulate to the Hindutva state’s diktat. Even many so-called left and left-liberals are loathing the Shaheen Bagh protesters for dragging their unprecedented organic feminist movement for too long. But can these allegations and mud-slinging stop the women, who have to anyways die without medical care in detention centres should they give up their struggle, from doing what’s just and appropriate?
Without going into the merits of the Coronavirus panic, one can easily figure out how politically cunning and biased such accusations against the Shaheen Bagh protest and its leading women protesters are. Soon after the Coronavirus outbreak, vigilance is heightened at the Shaheen Bagh protest site. Even before the AAP government imposed restrictions, the protesters started following a stringent hygiene routine. Following Kejriwal regime’s guidelines, the protesters have decided to organise the protest movement with a few participants, who will sit on a rotational basis and will maintain at least a metre’s distance from each other. They have been using hand sanitisers, hand washes and masks frequently and following all health advisory.
Even the iconic “grandmothers of Shaheen Bagh“, the octogenarian and nonagenarian women who fought against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the National Population Register (NPR), and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), since December 15th 2019, were also asked not to participate as they are in the vulnerable age group. Still, the Shaheen Bagh protest is demonised for being insensitive towards public health!
Though there is news that the NPR exercise is put on hold by the Union government following the direction of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to minimise mass contact in view of the Coronavirus outbreak, it won’t be delayed for long, as the Modi regime is keen to update the NPR for the preparation of an NRC before April 2021, when the Census 2021 will start. If in such a situation, the Shaheen Bagh protest is withdrawn, then it will have a severe repercussion on the democratic and progressive forces striving to stall the Hindutva fascist juggernaut of the RSS-BJP and their NRC exercise. The Shaheen Bagh protest must continue, must inspire others and by maintaining healthy practices and sanitation, it should create a benchmark for global democratic forces.