On 09.10.2021, Gulfisha Fatima, a young activist from Delhi completes 18 months of incarceration. Gulfisha a voice fighting for our collective equal citizenship at the time of the anti CAA protests has been in jail since April, 2020.
In Bangalore several organisations such as Naveddu Nilladiddare – Karnataka, Akhila Bharatha Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane, AIPWA, Campaign to Defend Democracy, PUCL-K and several other concerned citizens came together to express solidarity and support to Gulfisha Fatima.
This event that drew a wide range of activists, artists and students was a response to the nation-wise call for solidarity by concerned citizens from feminist, student and democratic groups and part of a series of events happening in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow and other cities. The event was held at 1 Shanti Road Gallery, Shanti Nagar.
The solidarity event that saw the participants speak through reflections, song, poetry and dance began with a silent tribute to feminist activists Kamala Bhasin Sonal Shukla, Gail Omvedt and Salim Kidwai who passed away over the last month whose spirit and values continue to guide contemporary movements. Mamatha Yajaman of Naveddu Niladdiddare Karnataka sang a song that spoke of all coming together to build a country on the foundations of love and harmony transcending barriers of caste, religion and class.
Apeksha Vohra, an activist and theatre person who has made two short movies on the illegal incarceration of Gulfisha Fatima highlighted that Gulfisha found her political voice organically during the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement. While others arrested under the same FIR as Gulfisha, have had organisational affiliations which has kept their fight and their memory alive, Gulfisha was not a part of any organisation and hence, not had such support to fall back on, she said. She urged the civil society to make Gulfisha’s struggle their own and take the movement forward.
Nasreen and Nisha Abdulla, activists whose roles were vital in the Bilal Bagh protests in Bangalore recounted the experience of the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests in Bangalore.
Identifying with the empowerment of Gul, as a young woman from the Muslim community Nasreen asserted that the indiscriminate use of draconian laws like the UAPA to clamp down on legitimate dissent will not deter citizens and that we will fearlessly fight the unconstitutional measures of the ruling Government.
Nisha, a theatre activist reflected on how the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement managed to create to space for the apolitical public to engage with the issues concerning rights and citizenship. It also empowered the general public to confidently and fearlessly assert their constitutional rights to the powers that be besides encouraging some conservative sections within the Muslim community to widen their world view on women.
This was followed by a poetry performance by the ‘ Kavya Sanje’ team led by Mamata Sagar comprising Siddartha, Padmavathi, Shalini, Reshma, Chand Pasha , Shashank Johri and Dada Peer Jayman. The team read out the poems they had written in solidarity with Gulfisha. The poems celebrated her spirit and highlighted the oppressive nature of the state.
Abha Muralidharan, an activist and documentationist who has been working on the impact of UAPA on poorer families spoke about how there has to be a concerted attempted to repeal such laws including the one on sedition that has seen thousands languishing in jail with little or no access to justice. She gave the example of the anti nuclear Koodamkulam struggle when Congress was in power in which more than 900 people had sedition charges slapped on them with absolutely no basis.
Advocate Avani Chokshi of the All India Lawyers Association for Justice highlighted how the criminal justice system has been vitiated in a manner that suppresses our freedom of speech and sharing of opinions. She said that UAPA is being used indiscriminately to quell dissent.
The event ended with a powerful bharatnatyam performance by Anuradha Venkataraman on feminine energy, symbolised by Sita or Vaidehi in a lesser known Ramayana, that which is sought to be caged and destroyed but is one that is capable of standing up to the greatest injustice independently and fearlessly. “Gul or Vaidehi, both for me are forms of this energy that need to be celebrated” she said.
Messages of solidarity were written out by participants on paper that will be shared with Gul Fatima who is now teaching young children and women art and language in the jail where she is imprisoned.
The demands of the campaign include:
1. Immediate Release of Gulfisha Fatima
2. Immediate release of Ishrat Jahan, Tasleem Ahmad, Meeran Haider, Shadab Ahmed, Athar Khan, Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Salim Mallick, Salim Khan, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain and Shifa-ul-Rahman and all other political prisoners.
3. Repeal of CAA-NRC-NPR, UAPA and the laws on sedition.