TIME Magazine Places Dadi of Shaheen Bagh Among 100 Most Influential People of 2020

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Bilkis, 82-year-old Dadi of Shaheen Bagh.

Bilkis gave hope and strength to activists and student leaders who were being thrown behind bars for standing up for the unpopular truth in a democracy that was sliding into authoritarianism, and inspired peaceful copycat protests across the country.

Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Bilkis (the Dadi of Shaheen Bagh) shares the limelight in TIME’s 100 with a few other Indian luminaries like Dr Ravindra Gupta (of Cambridge fame), actor Ayushman Khurana, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The TIME magazine has published following text about the Dadi written by journalist-author Rana Ayyub:

When I first met Bilkis, she sat in the midst of a crowd, surrounded by young women who were protesting with placards displaying verses of revolution. With prayer beads in one hand and the national flag in the other, Bilkis became the voice of the marginalised in India, an 82-year-old who would sit at a protest site from 8 a.m. to midnight.

She had been sitting there ever since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which could block Muslims from citizenship in the country, in December, and she continued through the cold winter. 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.

Bilkis gave hope and strength to activists and student leaders who were being thrown behind bars for standing up for the unpopular truth in a democracy that was sliding into authoritarianism, and inspired peaceful copycat protests across the country.

She said to me as a parting note: “I will sit here till blood stops flowing in my veins so the children of this country and the world breathe the air of justice and equality.” Bilkis deserves recognition so the world acknowledges the power of resistance against tyranny.
And the TIME has described Modi in the following words penned by Karl Vick, the magazine’s editor at large:

The key to democracy is not, in fact, free elections. Those only tell who got the most votes. More important is the rights of those who did not vote for the winner. India has been the world’s largest democracy for more than seven decades. Its population of 1.3 billion includes Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and other religious sects. All have abided in India, which the Dalai Lama (who has spent most of his life in refuge there) has lauded as “an example of harmony and stability.”

Narendra Modi has brought all that into doubt. Though almost all of India’s Prime Ministers have come from the nearly 80% of the population that is Hindu, only Modi has governed as if no one else matters. First elected on a populist promise of empowerment, his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rejected not only elitism but also pluralism, specifically targeting India’s Muslims. The crucible of the pandemic became a pretence for stifling dissent. And the world’s most vibrant democracy fell deeper into shadow.

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