Women who led the movement against the contentious citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Ghanta Ghar (Hussainabad) in Lucknow are now going to contest against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the next Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which will be held in 2022.
With the intent to intensify their political fight against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and bring it into the centre of politics in Uttar Pradesh, several women dissenters have now moved from activism to active electoral politics.
They believed that the juggernaut of BJP’s communalism, discrimination and injustice cannot be stopped without defeating saffron party in electoral politics.
Social activist and a school teacher, Sadaf Jafar joined politics in 2018 as a primary member of the Congress party. She participated in the anti-CAA protest held in Lucknow on December 19, 2019, which was called by the opposition parties and civil society.
During a massive protest, clashes broke out between police and protesters, at Parivartan Chowk in Kaiserbagh locality. Sadaf, who was present there to protest, was arrested and allegedly beaten up in police custody and then sent to jail.
Sadaf stepped out of jail 20 days after getting a bail from the local court. After being released from jail, she again stood against the contentious citizenship law, as a part of the famous Ghanta Ghar protest led by women.
A pro-CAA mob attempted to lynch Sadaf after her picture, name and address featured in the controversial “Name and Shame” hoardings, which were put up by the government with details of a few protesters. These were later ordered by the Allahabad High Court to be taken down.
Now, after one year of protest Sadaf is active in politics of the Congress. The party elevated her as a national coordinator. She had visited Bihar and Assam (as in charge) during the Assembly election campaigns for her party.
Now Sadaf has demanded a ticket for contesting the elections from the Lucknow Central seat. The seat was won by the Samajwadi Party’s leader Ravidas Malhotra in 2012 and UP law minister Brijesh Pathak is the incumbent lawmaker from this seat.
Speaking to Newsclick, Sadaf said she was in touch with both the top brass of the party and the voters of the constituency. “I plan to contest the elections for the people who have been suffering from the atrocities of the Yogi Adityanath government since the past five years,” she said.
She also said that without participating in electoral politics, it was impossible to bring the divisive citizenship law into the centre of politics or to scrap it.
Daughters of famous Urdu poet Munnawar Rana, who raised their voices against the CAA, have joined political parties as well. Summaiya Rana and Uroosa Rana have been working with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, respectively.
The police slapped five cases against Sumaiya for participating in the anti-CAA protest at Ghanta Ghar. She was also placed under house arrest several times because of her activism against the policies of the Centre and the state government.
She joined UP’s principal opposition party Samajwadi Party (SP) on December 29, 2020. Party president Akhilesh Yadav, on the same day, appointed her as the national spokesperson of SP.
Following her joining, Akhilesh tried to support the anti CAA protesters by announcing that if the SP came to power, he would withdraw all the cases registered against the anti CAA protesters in the state.
Summaiya told Newsclick that she joined the SP as the party's president promised her that he would withdraw cases against the innocent protesters. She has plans to get party ticket for the next Assembly elections, although she chose to be tight-lipped on the question of the constituency from where she wanted to contest.
Her younger sister Uroosa claimed that she had joined the Congress in 2010 as a party worker. She also played a key role in anti-CAA protests.
She registered a complaint against the UP Police for allegedly misbehaving with women protesters of Ghanta Ghar. According to Uroosa, she informed the top brass of the party that she wished to contest from the Kaiserganj assembly seat.
Another woman protester, Pooja Shukla is also planning to contest from the Lucknow North seat. This seat came into existence in 2012 and was won by Dr Abhishiek Mishra on an SP ticket. Presently, the constituency is represented by BJP’s Dr Neeraj Bora.
Pooja, who started her political career as student leader, stopped the caravan of chief minister Yogi Adityanath at Lucknow University gate in 2017 over the issue of fee hike. After that, she was arrested and sent to jail.
Pooja also severely criticised the central government for bringing in the CAA and participated in various protests organised against it. She was arrested by the UP police on January 24, 2020, from the premises of Ghanta Ghar where she had gone to protest against the citizenship law.
She told Newsclick that to fight against the anti-people and communal policies of the Yogi and Modi governments, she wants to become an elected representative of the people, whose voice can resonate in the Assembly hall.
The protester who became famous as ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ of Lucknow during the CAA protests, Uzma Parveen, has also started participating in electoral politics. She went to Bihar last year for the poll campaign of Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik).
During and after the Ghanta Ghar protest, the state police knocked her door several times. When the police failed to arrest her despite several raids, they arrested her husband for allegedly provoking an anti-government protest.
According to Uzma, she is in touch with the leaders of both Congress and the Samajwadi Party. “I would contest on the ticket of the party who would support my firm stance against the CAA. My aim of entering politics is to defeat the BJP, which is spreading communalism by making discriminatory laws,” she added
Eram Fatima, who was usually seen on the stage of the Ghanta Ghar protest and conducted programmes, also stepped into the political fray and joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). She recently contested a Zilla Panchayat election from the Domariyaganj seat and got around 2,500 votes.
She claimed that her husband was one of the founding members of AAP in the state. The UP police booked her in 12 FIRs to stop her from protesting against the CAA, she said, adding, “I will also try to contest the elections in 2022.”
“But if I do not get a ticket, I will raise my voice against the CAA from the stage of AAP during elections” Eram said. She also said that she campaigned for her party in Lucknow as well as in Siddharth Nagar.
After a month of mayhem, on December 19, 2019, during the anti CAA protest in various parts of the state, a group of some 25-odd women stood against the controversial law in Lucknow.
It may be recalled that a protest that was started by women after being inspired by a similar one in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, in the shivering cold days of January, was continued till the national lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March last year due to the surge of COVID-19.
CM Yogi Adityanath had given a controversial statement saying “Badla Liya Jaye Ga” (we will take a revenge) on the evening of December 19, 2019. Following this statement, the state police started a statewide crackdown against the anti-CAA protesters.
The same brutality was reported against the women protesters at Ghanta Ghar. However, the women faced this courageously and did not surrender before the police and the administration.
According to the police, a total of 16 FIRs were registered during the two-month long protest. Around 300 protesters have been charged in cases registered in Thakurganj police station. The police apprised that protesters were booked under sections 145, 147, 149, 188, 283, 353, 427 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code.
A summon was issued against Sadaf Jafar, Eram Fatima, Sumaiya Rana and Uzma Parveen, among others. Around 20 dissenters across the state had died in alleged police firing as well.