Bengaluru’s Shaheen Bagh: Meet the Resilient Women of Bilal Bagh

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

As one approaches Bengaluru’s Bilal Bagh – situated just off Tannery Road, next to the Hazrat Bilal Masjid – one can hear songs and slogans from miles away.

What started out as a small gathering of women and students on 8 February, Bilal Bagh has now emerged as an epicentre of anti-CAA protests. Scores of women, mainly Muslim residents from surrounding area are slowly being joined by protesters from all walks of life.

Saima Parveen, a 19-year-old student of BCom at a city college, has been spending her evenings at the protest site. Inspired by what she’s seeing, she sits with a notebook in her hand, raising slogans and helps distribute food to those at the site.

“You are welcomed into its fold and surprised by its infectious warmth,” said a protester who has been associated with the Bilal Bagh movement. Many others echo this sentiment.

The entrance to Bilal Bagh

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"“When I got here, I realised it’s bigger than I had anticipated. So after coming here, I noticed the passion and determination of the people here. So it inspired me also, that yes, I also need to fight this battle. What is so different about Hindus and Muslims?" - Saima ParveenMeet Waheeda, Bilal Bagh’s ‘Dadi’

Popularly called ‘Bilal Bagh ki Dadi’ or ‘Tiranga Apa’, Waheeda, 41, looks aged beyond her years. She has been coming to the protest everyday, saying that ‘working for the community was more important than earning money.’

She is the sole breadwinner of the family since her husband passed away 20 years ago. “Allah will take care of her,” Waheeda says.

“I have been coming here every evening because it makes me feel good. There is a sense of community here, we all need to stand together,” she says, while distributing packets of water and fruit slices to the protesters.

Waheeda aka Bilal Bagh ki Dadi

‘Maybe My Hunger Strike Will Wake Them Up’

Warsi, who claimed to have reached the 55th hour of her indefinite hunger strike, said that the apathy of the government was a scary prospect for her Muslim brothers and sisters.

“It has become almost ‘jungle raj’ here. In this ‘jungle raj’, where is the need for Constitution, Court and Parliament. That’s why I thought, that they are not waking up despite our protest. Maybe they will be shaken by my hunger strike,” she said, adding that what happened in Assam would be repeated when the NRC would be implemented across the country.

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“They passed such a controversial bill so quickly, but now they are dragging their feet on withdrawing it. Has everyone’s conscience died? If their conscience is still alive, then they should roll-back NRC & CAA,” said the 30-year-old.

‘Rani Chinnamma-like Flame Has Ignited in Us’

Saima said that like others, she too had underestimated the scale of the protests against the new citizenship law.

“They underestimated us and thought women will stay at home. In their attempts to scare us, they’ve awoken lionesses here. Don’t underestimate women here. A lioness, like Rani Chinnamma-like flame has ignited in all of us,” she says proudly.

Iqra, a volunteer and Class 12 student, who is spending her time volunteering at Bilal Bagh said that tries to study at night, after she has spent enough time at the protest.

“It’s tiring but what to do? I have a short break now but once my preliminary exams start, it will be harder. Let’s see then. When so many of my friends are here, I also want to be here,” she said.

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