India

In Wasseypur protest, women take lead: 'Maa, mulk nahi badla jata'

In Wasseypur protest, women take lead: 'Maa, mulk nahi badla jata'
The women have protested daily, holding placards and reciting poems of Allama Iqbal or Faiz Ahmad Faiz. (Express photo by Abhishek Angad)

Surrounded by collieries, the Wasseypur region in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad has long been affected by gang violence. However, for the last 20 days, it is the women of the area that have been in the news.

Traditionally limited to their households, women, for the first time in Wasseypur, have taken to the forefront of protests, holding demonstrations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

On Tuesday, around 500 women gathered at the protest site. Tabassu Khan, in her forties, claimed she votes for the BJP. “We did not say anything when the Babri (Masjid) verdict came. We did not utter a word on the laws on instant triple talaq. But the CAA is completely anti-democratic and discriminatory,” she said. She said her children’s exams are around the corner, but she has not been able give them time.

Among the protesters was Sultana, who holds a placard reading, “Jo mohabbat likhi hai Gita aur Quran mein, phir kaisa jhagda Hindu aur Musalmana mein (With the love that is written in the Gita and the Quran, what conflict will the Hindu and the Muslim have).”

She said: “The Act is secondary, we are primary…I feel like going to Shaheen Bagh in Delhi…The Prime Minister should know that it (CAA) is wrong.”

Salma Usmaani, who works with an international cosmetic brand in Dhanbad, said, “We just want to live in peace…the government needs to understand, ‘Maa aur mulk badla nahi jaata’ (The mother and the country cannot be changed.”

She added, “I had to make my husband understand that this is the time women that must come out in the open to protest.”

After a rally on January 7, police booked seven people and around 3,000 unknown accused under sedition laws and sections related to promoting enmity between two groups.

A day later, police filed a petition in the court to remove the sedition charges, making an SHO-level officer accountable. Usmaani, however, said that there was no element of promoting enmity as well. “That was a peaceful protest and we did not incite anyone. We hope that the Hemant Soren government listens to us,” she said.

And the move has failed to deter the women, who have continued to protest daily, holding placards against the new law, and reciting the poems of Allama Iqbal or Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

One of the oldest women protestors is Sehrin Nisha, in her 80s. She said, “I don’t have any documents and don’t have any home. I live with my relatives and I am an Indian.”