The award has been instituted in honour of freedom fighter Maulana Mohammad Ismael who dedicated his life in the struggle for India’s independence
NEW DELHI – Bilkis Bano, aka Bilkis Dadi, the octogenarian woman who emerged as the face of Shaheen Bagh protest movement, and prominent civil rights activist Harsh Mander have been conferred with Quaide Millleth award for year 2020.
Bano and Mander were presented the award at an event held at India Islamic Cultural Centre in New Delhi on Saturday.
The duo was given a cheque of Rs 2.5 lakh each as award money, a shawl and a memento presented by Navaid Hamid, president of All India Majlis Mushawrat.
Hamid hailed Bano as a person who fought to protect the constitution and against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. He said that Mander has been playing a significant role to fight against communal hate and promoting peace and harmony among the communities. “This is why we have chosen them as recipients of Quaide Millleth award for year 2020.
The award has been instituted in honour of freedom fighter Mohamed Ismail Sahib who was known as “Quaide Milleth” meaning leader of the (Muslim) community. He exercised tremendous influence as opposition leader in the combined Madras Presidency, Member of Constituent Assembly, Member of Rajya Sabha (1952–1958) and member of Lok Sabha for three terms.
The event which was broadcast live on Zoom was jointly presided over by N. Ram, editor of the Hindu group of newspapers, and Dr Moosa Raza, retired IAS officer and head of the Selection Committee that chooses the recipients of the award each year. Besides Moosa Raza, other members of the committee are Dr. Vasanthi Devi, former Vice Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University; and Bishop Devasagayam, CSI (Retd).
Since its inception in 2015, the Award has been conferred on eminent public figures such as R. Nallakannu, Teesta Setalvad, Hamid Ansari, N. Sankarriah; Syed Sahabudin; Aruna Roy, Manik Sarkar and A.G. Noorani.
Bilkis Bano participated in the months-long sit-in of women at a road in the Muslim-dominated locality of Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi in protest against the divisive citizenship law enacted by the Modi government in December 2019.
The law allows speedy naturalisation of refugees from neighbouring countries but excludes Muslims even as secularism is fundamental in the Indian Constitution.
The sit-in at Shaheen Bagh had inspired many more women-led protests in towns and cities across the length and breadth of the country.
The presence of an elderly woman like Bano at a protest smashed stereotypes about Indian Muslim women demonstrating their emancipation.
It braved police cases, media witch-hunt, government pressure but came to halt on March 24 when India imposed an unprecedented countrywide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Bano made it to the list of 100 most influential persons across the globe for year 2020. She was also featured by BBC in the list of 100 Most Influential Women in the world for 2020.