From the day she heard about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NCR) of India, Indulekha Parthan had wanted to join the protests against them. But she wasn’t interested in joining one that was organised by any specific political party. So when she heard there was going to be one in Kochi by a student community, with students from over 15 colleges joining, Indulekha got out on the street with a placard. Her photo would go viral by the end of that day.
Indulekha, a first year student at the Government Law College in Ernakulam, wore a hijab that day and carried a placard that read: “Mr Modi, I am Indulekha. Identify me by my dress?”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had only days ago remarked that those protesting against the CAA and the NRC can be identified by their clothes, insinuating that they belonged to a certain religion.
“When we came in the morning to take part in the protest, they were asking for ideas. This was something I thought of on the spot. Someone said then that the idea was not new, actor Anaswara Rajan had just posted a picture of herself in a hijab with a similar message. But I had not seen that. Later it was decided that I’d wear a hijab and display this message. My classmates, who were not part of the protest, helped me with the hijab,” Indulekha tells TNM.
She thought it would send out a positive message, when a non-Muslim wore a Muslim woman’s clothes, and fought the CAA and the NRC. “But the interpretations made of my protest were nothing like I imagined. I got a lot of negative comments on social media. But the good part is that there were also a lot of comments defending me, all from people I had never met,” Indulekha says.
As a law student, Indulekha learnt about Article 14 in her first semester and felt strongly about equality before law. She finds it hard to believe that there are so many people who don’t get something as basic as equality. “I didn’t bother responding to all the negative comments. I tried talking sense to a couple of people and realised they cannot be corrected.”
Indulekha’s parents in Palakkad were a little worried when her hijab-wearing photo got so widely circulated. “But they have been supportive of my stance and have told me I can do whatever I feel is right,” Indulekha says.