Police personnel visit her home everyday and take her photograph, she tells Clarion India
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – The Delhi Police appear to be paranoid about an 82-year-old woman. Bilqis Bano, popularly known as the Shaheen Bagh Dadi, says that police personnel visit her home in capital’s Okhla area daily to check if she was at home. “They take my photograph everyday and leave,” Bilqis told Clarion India in an interview this week.
This has been happening ever since she ventured out on December 1, 2020, to join the ongoing farmers’ protest at the Delhi-Haryana border at Singhu. She was stopped by Delhi Police personnel and escorted back to her residence in Shaheen Bagh. Remembering the day, Bilqis Dadi said, “I am the daughter of a farmer. I may be sitting at home, but my heart is with the agitating farmers. I went to the protest site. But the police did not allow me to proceed.”
Asked what transpired when the police blocked her movement, she said, “They made me sit in their vehicle. There were 10 to 12 lady police, and gents as well. They took me to a police station. The SHO asked why she has been brought here. He offered me water and tea, and said let her go.”
Revealing daily police visits to her place, she said, “My fourth son has gone to Kashmir with his family, so I have shifted to the house of another son. The police came there as well; even yesterday they came. They took my photograph and left.”
The interview was conducted on January 16 at Delhi’s India Islamic Cultural Centre where she, along with Harsh Mandar of Karwan-e-Mohabbat, was conferred with Quaide-e-Milleth award, an honour that in the past has been given to luminaries like R. Nallakannu, Teesta Setalvad, Hamid Ansari, N. Sankarriah; Syed Sahabudin; Aruna Roy, Manik Sarkar and A.G. Noorani.
The octogenarian became the face of the 101-day-long protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. During the protest which began in December 2019 at Shaheen Bagh, Bilqis Dadi sat under a tent with hundreds of women and children, braving the extremely cold weather. The protest ended in March 2020 because of the lockdown declared in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, she was recognised by the Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020 along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bollywood actor Ayushman Khurrana.
During the interview, she vowed to continue her struggle against the controversial CItizenship Amendment Act. “We will continue to oppose it till it’s withdrawn. Why bring such laws overnight.”
Elaborating further, she said: “I call upon all women to come out and be counted. Burning one stick would not make light. Let’s join together. I will keep raising my voice. I am not giving up. My spirit is no less than the spirit of the young. I am not frustrated. I will fight.”
The Dadi made a forceful call for the release of students who took part in anti-CAA-NRC protests.
“What would they learn if you keep them behind bar. Let them come out, allow them to concentrate on their studies and become lawyer, judge, etc. What are they doing in jails? Nothing; instead, they are killing themselves. People are ending their lives because of bad laws,” she said.
She also referred to the recent incident in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras. “Look, what happened in Hathras. A gang rape victim died in hospital. She was cremated in the dead of night, against the wishes of her parents. Why so much injustice? Governments will come and go.
Today this govt, tomorrow there will be another. But there must be justice,” she added.
She also called upon people to show resilience. “Be vigilant and raise your voice. If you don’t speak out, how would the government realise that people have grievances,” the Dadi maintained.