‘We’re aware of our fate’: how Muslim women artists have reacted to arrest of Pregnant student leader

Time magazine recently revealed the cover for its latest edition, which was created by the American painter Titus Kaphar, depicting a Black woman holding onto an empty space that’s shaped like a child. This is an image that speaks to the ongoing worldwide protests on behalf of Black lives articulating the fear Black mothers feel for their children’s lives. That space of a Black mother’s suffering is the same vacuum the Muslim mothers in India feel today, fearing their children’s lives ever more than before. This is the same vacuum that became the site of a revolutionary movement across India led by Muslim women against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Their significance is now being reiterated by Muslim women artists.

Many Muslim women artists across the country are using their platforms calling out the repression that the government is committed to pursue. Safoora Zargar, an M.Phil student from Jamia Millia Islamia and 21 weeks pregnant has been behind bars for five months, that too amidst a pandemic. Safoora, a face of students protest against CAA has been denied bail for a third time.

Shahana KT, whose powerful sketch portraying Zargar’s imprisonment – which has been shared widely – says she was not aware of this injustice until a friend pointed this out to her.

“I know this wouldn’t have passed me had I seen it on news platforms that I normally access. The fact that something so heinous is happening and how many of us don’t even receive this kind of information outright urged me to sketch something, to share it within my small circle. But it really got pushed forward, was circulated widely and people were reacting against it. I believe I was able to use my platform to steer this issue in the right direction,” Shahana, an artist from Kerala who is also known as Saakutty on social media platforms told Maktoob.

Fathima Zehra Bathool, another artist and an active face in student protests tells Maktoob that she was very disturbed by the news and turned to art to translate this unpleasant feeling, which she then shared on social media.

“A pregnant woman inside an overcrowded jail, during a pandemic outbreak and that too for being a part of a protest, on the contrary, criminals are roaming free. If this isn’t injustice at its peak, then what is? ,” writes Fathima Hakkim, one of the most accepted artists in Kerala.

Shabna Sumayya, a literary illustrator and artist who works for Malayalam publications has also shared a piece of art on her Instagram page

Dilna Sherin and Safa Jouhar who share the same concern and are trying to amplify the need for justice for Safoora Zargar, a fierce Muslim woman activist being subjected to draconian laws by the state for registering her agitation against anti-Muslim laws.

Zargar is among the many students and rights activists who were active in anti-CAA protesters arrested and charge-sheeted while India was in lockdown.

Zargar, leader of the Jamia Coordination Committee, has been booked under draconian UAPA by Delhi Police’s Special Cell after being accused of hatching a conspiracy to incite riots in the northeast Delhi in February this year.

International human rights watchdogs including Amnesty International and civil society groups, teachers associations, student organizations, and filmmakers across India had issued different statements calling for the release of Safoora Zargar and anti-CAA activists who were ‘targetted by Hindu nationalist government for protesting anti-Muslim laws’ and ‘arrested under false accusations by Delhi Police.’

Fathima Shirin is an architecture graduate from Srinivas School of Architecture, Karnataka. Shirin writes on architecture, development, and culture.

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