Washington Dc, January 12 (KMS): In an event held by the Indian American Muslim Council, a panel comprising of prominent activists, authors, and journalists discussed the continuing impact of India’s Shaheen Bagh protest, a peaceful sit-in protest which lasted from December 2019 to March 2020.
Over the course of nearly 4 months, Muslims took to the streets almost daily in large crowds in protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the revocation of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s semi-autonomy, and other government policies discriminatory towards Muslims.
The Shaheen Bagh protest is also notable for being led largely by Indian Muslim women, ranging from students to stay-at-home mothers, who came out in droves to protest the Modi government’s discriminatory treatment against Muslims.
“People who have gotten their first political pushback [from this movement] have never forgotten what Shaheen Bagh did to them,” said Arfa Khanum Sherwani, senior editor of The Wire. Referring to the Hindu nationalist goal of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra, she added, “Shaheen Bagh women came and built a wall between a democratic secular country and a theocratic rashtra.”
Other activists joining the panel repeatedly stressed the need for the global community to not only remember Shaheen Bagh, but also to take action before the BJP government allows a full-on genocide of Muslims.
“One thing that requires focus is the flagging of India as a high alert situation, where an impending genocide is there,” said Safoora Zargar, a student at Jamia Millia Islamia who was imprisoned during the Anti-CAA protests. “People like me who are here, and who see all of this every day – the hate on social media, the hate on the ground, the hate that we face in everyday life… we [see that] we are very, very close to a genocide.”
“We are sitting on a genocidal time bomb, and it’s ticking very fast. And in less than a year, you’ve seen these genocidal calls,” said Aasif Mujtaba, an author and activist at the forefront of Shaheen Bagh protest, referring to the instances across India of Hindu extremist leaders urging the majority community to take up weapons and “cleanse” India of its Muslims.
“It is high time that people really started concerted efforts to highlight this,” added Zargar.
Ziya Us Salam, author and journalist with The Hindu, pointed out that it was in part due to international outrage, protests, and advocacy on part of the diaspora that stopped the ruling BJP government from pushing ahead with the CAA, even after it was passed by Parliament.
“This is precisely because of all the international pressure, which was generated because of the Shaheen Bagh movement back home,” he said. “Nothing is small. Every little drop counts.”