It’s been a month since the women of Shaheen Bagh accompanied by their children started a protest against the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act. Right next to where these women sit to protest day and night, is a space where the children of Shaheen Bagh “read for revolution.”
On the verandah of a shop that has remained closed since December 15 when the protest began, the children of Shaheen Bagh sit to read, paint, draw and engage with new ideas and thoughts. The walls are filled with posters made by the children, the volunteers and some by the people who come to visit. The red banner on the wall reads “Read, Draw and Resist”.
On one side of the verandah, there is a wonderful collection of books, the rest is occupied by children and youngsters who are busy contributing to this cultural resistance. The man behind this initiative is Usama Zakir, a professor at the Department of English in Jamia Milia Islamia.
“When I came here in the initial days of the protest I saw small children sitting around a fire and raising slogans. This disturbed me. I wanted to engage with them and educate them. I did not want the protests and the slogans they hear to condition them in a certain way.”, he says.
Usama believes that children should be given great care because they are the hope of tomorrow. This initiative helps children to detach from the chaos of the protest and yet engage with it in different and beautiful ways. It makes them feel fresh and more lively. According to him, it will help them interact with their classmates in a more inclusive way once they get back to school.
He explained an incident when a child came to him and asked who is ‘Inquilab’? The child has imagined ‘Inquilab’ to be a superhero who will come to save the world when he had heard the slogan “Jamia there khoon se, inquilab aayega (Jamia from your blood, a revolution will be born)”. This is the problem when the children are not educated about what they do. The initiative by Usama urges children to read and engage in debates. It also conducts activities which educate them about the constitution and discuss CAA. “It will prevent them from getting bored of the protest activities and to engage in it with more wisdom.”, he says.
While we talk, 6-year-old Aaqfa came to show a beautiful drawing she has made of the Red Fort of India. “See how we have underestimated the talent of these children. They come from mothers who are in the streets protesting for their country. They are special.”, Usama said looking at the art. He also proudly showed us a poster made by another child which had his poem on it.
Students from universities and other locals volunteer to help the children engage in different activities. Noor who is a student of Jamia Milia University come here often.
“Coming here makes me fresh and happy”, she says as she read out a story to children seated around her. This initiative apart from empowering the children of Shaheen Bagh also contribute to the sustenance of the protest in larger ways. As we leave, 6-year-old Aaqfa came again asking for paper to write a story. The children of Shaheen Bagh are in love with this space and its creator. This indeed is a revolution in itself.
Fayiza CA studies MA, Media Governance at Jamia Millia Islamia