‘I am like his mother. I didn’t give birth to him… my sister did… I pray for his long life and happiness’
NEW DELHI – Bilkis, the ‘Dadi of Shaheen Bagh’ who has been featured in TIME magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2020’, has no inhibition in meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi if invited. “Why not? I would go. What’s there to be scared about? Modi ji is like my son. I am like his mother. I didn’t give birth to him… my sister did. (But) he is like my child,” NDTV quoted her as telling a reporter of ANI news agency.
The Dadi, along with two other grandmothers, had emerged as the most notable faces of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh sit-in which had become the nerve centre of nation-wide protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act earlier this year. The sit-in had drawn worldwide attention, especially because it was led by faceless Muslim women. It came to an end on March 24 following the declaration of lockdown in view of coronavirus pandemic.
Recalling her days at the sit-in, Bilkis said: “We continued our sit-in even as it rained or mercury dropped or temperature shot up. We had been sitting ever since our kids were thrashed in Jamia. Shots were fired in front of us, yet nothing deterred us.”
TIME magazine’s piece on her has been written by journalist-author Rana Ayyub, who says: “Bilkis, along with thousands of women who joined her in Shaheen Bagh, a neighborhood in New Delhi, became the symbol of resistance in a nation where the voices of women and minorities were being systematically drowned out by the majoritarian politics of the Modi regime.”
The fearless 82-year-old lady says has read only Quran and has never been to school but “today I feel excited and happy. I congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for also being included in this list… I pray for his long life and happiness.”
Along with Bilkis, Modi, actor Ayushman Khurrana, biologist Ravindra Gupta and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are also on the TIME’s list that was released on September 23. It features pioneers, artists, leaders, icons and titans who have had the most impact in 2020.
The Dadi also spoke about India’s fight against coronavirus. “Our first fight is against coronavirus. The disease should be eliminated from the world,” she underlined.
“I am very happy that I was honoured in this manner. Although I did not expect this,” she told ANI. Her family also expressed their excitement on her recognition. The Dadi, who hails from Hapur in Uttar Pradesh, lives in Shaheen Bagh with her daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Her husband died about eleven years ago.