Shaheen Bagh has shattered myth of oppressed Muslim woman who needs saving: Vasanth Kannabiran

I stroll into her space the place she is wearing a kalamkari sari with a shirt in a contrasting color €” a mixture I’ve observed for the numerous years I’ve recognized her. As I push open the door this is by no means close, I take a look at the preferred {photograph} of her and Kannabiran placing at the wall €” the {photograph} taken at Guttikondabilam, an incident she narrates in her memoir, Taken At The Flood. She welcomes me with a heat smile, and we commence speaking about her lifestyles.

Vasanth Kannabiran is a widely known title within the Indian girls’s motion. She has helped construct a number of girls’s rights organisations and has been a part of India’s trendy feminist historical past. She narrates in her e book the battles fought through civil society: some around the nation, some within the states the place she spent maximum of her lifestyles. The e book analyses and displays at the victories now we have loved so far within the girls’s motion, and the leaps and limits we nonetheless need to shuttle as a neighborhood.

First feminist motion

Feminism entered her lifestyles a lot later, she writes, however from early on, the indicators have been there. From how pieces have been organised on a dhobi‘s listing (males’s garments to girls’s) which disappointed her, to difficult the established order of handiest male representatives in faculties. When school elections have been across the nook, she realised that ladies needed to be glad with a put up that was once reserved for them. Defying those protocols, she and a couple of of her buddies nominated a girl for the location of president. Back then, she believes, “it was once only a response, natural and easy”.

Their movements ended in weeks of harassment within the type of obscene pictures and next reluctance from the management to take a stand. Till, in fact, the ladies of the varsity rebelled and refused to wait an tournament. Recounting this incident, Vasanth says, “The good danger to boycott should had been the Communist heritage. I by no means truly mentioned or discussed this at house. Hindsight tells me it was once feminist and good.”

As a reader and a feminist, Taken At The Flood was once a humbling e book. A reminder of what generations of girls prior to me (prior to us?) have needed to do, from difficult how a dhobi writes his listing to being subjected to lewd footage or feedback once they dissent.

Her memoir, like her lifestyles, had intersecting realities. She was once additionally immersed within the communal tensions of the 1980s in Hyderabad, beneath the banner of Hyderabad Ekta. Of the riots aid paintings, she writes, “It was once the sour reality that the minute there was once a revolt and bloodshed within the town, males between the ages of 15 and 70 have been rounded up through the police and put in the back of bars.”

Vasanth says, “Events develop into ancient with time. The realisation that they have been important saved dawning on me handiest as I sat down to jot down. But all I used to be doing was once telling a tale, the tale of my lifestyles.” For readers, there’s a resonance of the similar patterns we see even lately.

As part of the ladies’s motion, Vasanth writes in regards to the shifts within the problems that have been focussed on, and the way this modified the contours of the motion itself. She speaks about how the motion formed her: “Where did the need or the boldness to need one thing come from, if no longer from the ladies’s motion?”

She displays at the divisions that arose and the way girls grappled with them. She writes: “What some distance we’ve come since then, and the way little we realised at the moment, that we had miles to move. That the ones darkish and deep woods would get to the bottom of such a lot of truths we had taken as a right. (…) How our perceptions and assumptions about secularism may totally exclude and alienate girls.”

As we take a seat in her space and speak about girls’s historical past, she speaks in regards to the public-private divide of girls’s lives. The call for for ladies to stick house, take care of youngsters, be domesticated and no longer have too many evaluations €” all stay related lately. The pushback girls are subjected to every time they arrive in combination is all too well known and acquainted; our collective historical past displays us that ladies have challenged this divide for many years.

She writes: “There’s no girls’s liberation with no revolution and there is not any revolution with out girls.

That is what the Maoists additionally declared throughout the peace talks within the 2000s. And nobody however feminists can perceive the results of this observation, that sexuality is the important thing to each oppression and liberation, a lesson that mankind will take eternally to be told.”

From then to now: What has modified?

Women pouring out of houses and onto streets when wanted isn’t new for India. During the liberty motion, girls like Acchamamba and Durga Bai and lots of others got here out onto the streets. This was once in fact additionally true for the anti-arrack combat in Andhra Pradesh (united) that introduced down a central authority, the uproar after Rameeza Bee‘s gang rape that ended in police firings and curfews, the moms of Manipur who’ve resisted, the ladies of Kashmir status their floor within the face of brutal violence, and now once more, within the wake of the protests in opposition to the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), the National Population Register (NPR) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

In this interview, Vasanth spoke about how the ladies of Shaheen Bagh have decimated such a lot of stereotypes: “These girls have shattered the parable of the oppressed Muslim lady who must be stored. They have marched in to save lots of the rustic, save our freedoms and rebuild our long term.”

There has been an outpouring of complaint from individuals who consider those girls must no longer have introduced their youngsters to the protest, after information of the death of a child broke out (the kid died because of the chilly). The implication is that ladies, another time, should choose from being just right moms or combating for social justice. Commenting at the energy of the non-public, Vasanth says, “Women have proven us that they may be able to upward thrust above those feedback and be observed and heard through the entire international. They are pronouncing with their presence that this oppression may not be lived down.”

Reading Taken on the Flood is a gorgeous reminder of the lengthy ancient combat girls have had with public protests proper from Rameeza Bee, to difficult how rape is known within the aftermath of the alleged rape of a tribal lady through two policemen in Mathura in 1972, to present-day violence in our nation. She talks in regards to the “secure mobilisation and a combat in opposition to circle of relatives violence and dowry deaths” that happened in the ones early years when “networking between teams around the nation (no emails or cellphones then) was once laborious but it surely grew continuously round Mathura’s rape.”

The e book is a must-read for feminists of all generations; it’s important for us to mirror at the previous and rebuild our futures with empathy. In the bankruptcy at the girls’s motion, Vasanth writes: “To be capable of do what you consider in, and revel in doing it, is among the perks of being a part of the ladies’s motion €” or any motion for that subject.” Of path, the motion is eternally converting and eternally adapting and “the simplistic assumptions of the team spirit and uniformity of girls’s oppression had been dissolved into newly rising identities and differing wishes.”

In the tip, what did I achieve from studying this e book? A reminder of our shared feminist historical past; the obstacles that ladies had been nudging all over historical past; that our non-public is certainly political; that to win this struggle in opposition to our various and differing oppressors, we wish to come in combination: girls as pillars of the revolution.

Srinidhi Raghavan is a author, researcher and teacher. She works on the intersections of sexuality, gender, incapacity and era. She works on programme building with Rising Flame and is the Co-Founder of The Curio-city Collective.

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