Hum ek hain.
I really wish I had at least one video of this slogan, but every time that it was hurled out through the mic, I would freeze, my hair standing on end, driven to tears.
Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of taking myself to protests because I spend much of my time just crying, and wiping tears. So two nights ago when I headed to the first night of the 24/7 protest slowly growing outside the Frazer Town Mosque on MM Road, I wondered if maybe more than my doing something for the protest, the protest is doing something for me.
It has certainly been very cathartic for me. Just to be there, surrounded by swelling crowds of unity, finding a voice and joining in the slogans. Just saying Azaadi, over and over has been healing. For me.
After literal years of being a cynic and fearing this country is a lost cause in the hands of rogues, this past month has filled me up with hope. Literally, somatically, I have felt like I am being filled up by an energy I didn’t know we had as a country. Every time I have been at a protest I wonder where these people, people like me, have been hiding for all these years!
The MM Road protest has been incredible. Organised completely by and for women, it’s been an outstanding show of how ultimately it’s women who roll their sleeves up and get the job done. I’ve seen them there in huge numbers, big and little kids in tow, organising food, passing around water, multiple rounds of chai, and even coming back to collect trash.
At the foot of the stage, where woman after women goes up to speak or sing or chant or sloganeer, there is a makeshift activity centre of sorts. It’s not as fancy as I am making it sound, but it moved me immensely, because it was a sign of women doing what they need to, to get out of their homes to get the job done. It was well past 10 pm on Thursday night, and with probably nowhere to leave their kids since they were out on the streets, several women gathered their kids together, distributed piles of paper, scattered some paints and crayons amidst them and asked them to stay together. The kids stayed, doodling, making posters, painting the tricolour on each others’ faces, while their mothers donned reflective jackets over their hijabs, and job hustling with their volunteer work.
I was there till well past midnight, all by myself, long after my friends left, and it was entirely safe, well organised, just so tremendous and inspiring.
I said this before, and I’ll say it again. This isn’t just about religious fundamentalism anymore (though that is also a big reason why we need to push back). This is about divisive politics. Politics that will come after minority after minority. Today it’s religious factions, but it wont be long before it irreversibly ruins the poor, Dalits, Adivasis, LGBTQIA folks, women and children.
Tomorrow marks 70 years of the Republic of India, and there is no better time to revisit and reassert our rights, and celebrate the very constitution that makes us who we are as a nation. The constitution that is at stake today.
All bets are off. The shiny veneer of the promise of development has all but faded. Unemployment is at its lowest. We’re in the midst of a full-blown agrarian crisis. The economy is in shambles and all we can seem to do is wring our hands and watch hopelessly. In fact, IMF is now pitting the global economic slowdown on India. And to top it all, our rights are severely at stake now.
The world is watching. Yesterday, The Economist revealed the cover of the first edition of the year. It reads “Intolerant India“.
We have got to stand up as one, like this matters. And like it matters to all of us alike.
The MM Road 24/7 (indefinite) protest is happening outside the mosque, opposite Carry Fresh Supermarket in Frazer Town. Today is Day 3, and there’s a lot of hope and determination to keep this going in support of the incredible women of Shaheen Bagh. If you’re in the city and you’d like to show your support, even if it is just for a short while, please consider going there.
This realy awe-inspiring piece talks about how it’s women taking the lead.
They need our support. Awaaz do, hum ek hain.