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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 11, March 16, 2024

CAA, apprehensions over trouble ahead | Humra Quraishi

Friday 15 March 2024, by Humra Quraishi


14 March 2024

Women’s Day come and gone! Women surviving how they were! Promises of their well-being, safe and sound upkeep confined to the stale political speeches of the rulers of the day. Nothing concrete can be expected to take place in a situation, where reported cases of targeted assaults and attacks against them are on the rise.

I don’t attend Women’s Day functions, for no specific reason except for the basic fact that in spite of all the hyped propaganda the condition of our women hasn’t improved in these recent years. But last Friday I did attend one of the discussions, focusing on women, hosted by Om Books International. Hosted by Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, editor-in-chief, the interactive session with three eminent writers- Aruna Chakravarti, Harshali Singh and Nandini Sen, revolved around - The Art of Storytelling!

I was drawn to the very concept - the art of storytelling. Here I’d like to focus on the fact that perhaps the only viable option that can bring about some level of relief to women is to tell and offload their stories in whichever form they can! Those who cannot write their stories should try relay them in the vocal mode - Dastangoi. Yes, why not! It’s our traditional and age-old style of relaying stories. Let language or regional barriers not come in way. In this day and age of translations and translators, there are several options to help bridge gaps and boundaries. Above all, human emotions remain unchanging whether you are here or there!

And last Friday afternoon, as I moderated the session I asked the panellists to comment of this reality that bothers me: why is it that though each one of us has hundreds of stories to offload but only a handful actually manage to do so …the rest carrying all their untold tales with them till their dying day! Why? Also, a connected factor or call it an offshoot: Much against the myth that storytelling or writing could be easygoing, it isn’t. It’s tough.

But stories ought to be told. Should be told a hundred times; relayed from one generation to the next. One ought to be prepared that storytelling could be emotionally draining and involves much effort and time but it’s all worth it….I would go to the extent of saying that storytelling be encouraged right from the school and college level. Essential for the emotional upkeep and survival, in these turbulent times, when the going gets tough!


Last week’s visual shots of a Delhi Police sub-inspector kicking and slapping namazis offering Friday afternoon prayers on the road outside a mosque in the Inderlok locality of the capital city, appalled me. Though, as I have been writing all along, nothing really shocks one in these times, but those shots were much too horrifying. It went to relay how very third-class and rotten we have become. How the system has failed us. Disasters taking place, atrocities heaped, every single day.

I recall, as a child I would often accompany my abba/ father to the local mosque for the Friday prayers. I would either sit back in the Fiat or loiter around the outskirts of the mosque till the prayers were over, as in the traditional setups of Uttar Pradesh, girls and women not really permitted inside mosques. No one bothered or heaped questions or slapped or kicked around. Nah, nothing like today, when the Muslim community can be targeted under the various alibis. In fact, many time no alibis are required!

Also, it got me thinking that if all these violent communally charged attacks are taking place out there in the open in the national capital, then what must be happening inside jails and prisons, where the inmates are completely at the mercy of the jail staff and there are supposed no mobiles and cameras to expose the targeted assaults.

And with the latest news reports of the implementation of the CAA, apprehensions are growing. Bringing into focus the violence and anarchy unleashed on the protestors over four winters back. If you’d recall, as the 2020 winter had peaked, so did protests by individuals and the general masses and the violence unleashed by the State machinery. Two specific instances had stood out. To quote from the news report of Hugh Tomlinson and Saurabh Sharma, published in The Times (UK ) dated January 10, 2020 “The crowd scattered and word spread up the street in panic: ‘Police, police.’ While the protestors scrambled to flee over the rooftops of the block in old Lucknow, dozens of officers burst in below, raining blows on women and children. The Muslim families cowered from their attackers. ‘Take off her veil, check if she’s a man,’ one officer yelled, pointing to Salma Hussain,29, who wept as she recalled the humiliation. The women were groped and officers commented on their breasts as they beat them. ‘One man put a gun to my head’, said Tabassum Raza, 26. He said: ‘Tell me where the men are hiding or I’ll shoot you.’ ”

Not to overlook what the Lucknow-based activist Sadaf Jafar, had to go through…she had detailed how a particular male police officer in Lucknow’s Hazratgan police station pulled her by her hair, kicked and punched her in the abdomen and went on doing so till she started bleeding – blood soaking the clothes on her, blood trickling down … Of course, not to overlook the “Go to Pakistan” communal- dripping taunts thrown at her by the so-called protectors of the masses…

As I’ve mentioned apprehensions are growing. Worries surmount in these times when an average citizen of this country is going through a severe crisis in terms of even providing adequate food to his family. With that, malnourished hungry and food-deprived are hundreds and thousands of our fellow citizens. If CAA is implemented it will only bring about disasters in terms of the very basic survival of hundreds of hundreds amongst us. Disadvantaged communities will be targeted. Compounding the grim ground realities.

o o

ENDING this week’s column by this verse of Akbar Hussain Akbar Allahabadi from Khushwant Singh’s - Celebrating The Best of Urdu Poetry ( Penguin Books):

‘The Name of God

My rivals have lodged complaints against me in police stations for the crime
That Akbar continues to take the name of God in the present age and time.’

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