Muslim women during the protest against the amended citizenship act in Kannur on Tuesday. (Express photo by S K Mohan)
After Islamic outfits fielded burka-clad women as the face of the state’s protest against the amended citizenship law, the CPI (M) on Sunday warned that “using religious symbols and organising people on a religious basis would only serve to further the agenda of the Sangh Parivar.”
An unfamiliar presence during the hartal called by fringe Muslim outfits in Kerala last Tuesday was conservative women putting up a strong resistance against the police. They were fielded by the Welfare Party of India (WPI), the political arm of right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami.
In Kannur and Kozhikode districts, women activists of WPI trooped onto streets to stop vehicles from plying on the day. At local-level protest meetings and events across the state, women are participating in large numbers.
On Friday night, scores of women took part in a “protest night,” against the amended law at Meppayur village in Kozhikode. They were holding placards which said “Wasalamu Inquilab.”
The CPI (M) state committee, which met on Sunday, said organising protests using religious symbols and groups would only weaken the unity of secular forces. Such attempts would only help further the interest of the Sangh Parivar and hence everyone should become part of a people’s protest with secular perspective, said the committee.
On their hartal, WPI state president Hameed Vaniyambalam said it was the first agitation sponsored by the party and for the the first time, Muslim women have stepped up. “New-generation Muslim women are politically very conscious and they are ready to come out for such an action. Over the years, the WPI has given due representation for women in the organisation and have been encouraging women to come out to occupy public avenues,” he said.
Several girls from the state who are students in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia hail from Jamaat-e-Islami families.
Loktantrik Yuva Janata Dal national president Saleem Madavoor said the protest should be led by a secular society. “There is nothing in the amended law that gives worries to Muslims only. The Jamaat-e-Islami and Popular Front of India wanted to give Muslim identity for the protest. The easy way to give that Islamic face for the protest was to parade burka-clad women during agitations. Such attempts would only lead to polarisation in civil society and giving a mainstream acceptance for orthodoxy. These outfits have reduced the issue to a Muslim one,” said Saleem.
WPI Kannur district secretary Sajida Saheer said Muslim women were eager to demonstrate against the contentious law. “We cannot sit at home when girls belonging to our WPI cadres have taken leadership in the protest in Jamia Millia University, Delhi. We stepped out to make the hartal a success,” she said.
Indian Union Muslim League legislator K M Shaji said WPI and SDPI are cadre parties engaged in marketing women in politics.