'Know me by my clothes?’: Wearing bindis and burqas, Bengaluru protests against CAA

Irom Sharmila, the anti-AFSPA activist, was one of the many women who converged at Bengaluru’s Town Hall to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
'Know me by my clothes?’: Wearing bindis and burqas, Bengaluru protests against CAA
'Know me by my clothes?’: Wearing bindis and burqas, Bengaluru protests against CAA

“Will we get tired of protesting?” An emphatic response rose from the crowd: “NO!” Hundreds of people gathered at Bengaluru’s Town Hall on Sunday, wearing bindis and burqas, to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the Prime Minister’s statement that those protesting against CAA can be identified from their clothes. 

“When women come out in great numbers, laws get changed and people sit up and take notice,” said Tara Krishnaswamy, one of the organisers of the protest, addressing the crowd.

“We thank the honourable Prime Minister and the honourable Home Minister of this country because they have succeeded in uniting us. We are one,” Tara said. 

Hundreds of women wearing burqas and bindis, who were sitting on steps of the Town Hall, all cheered at this statement. 

Tara also spoke about how Hindus and Muslims have come together to fight an attack on the Constitution and to fight fascism. The large number of women protesters from various backgrounds made the protest unique. They held up posters against the NRC and the CAA and waved the Indian flag. Some people held up copies of the Preamble of the Constitution of India.

“We called for the bindi and burqa protest because some weeks ago, Prime Minister Modi said that we can identify the people protesting by their clothes,” Vaishnavi, one of the organisers of the protest, told TNM. 

“By this, he meant that it’s only Muslims who are coming out to protest. As a response to his comment, we came out in ambiguous clothing. We see men in bindis, women wearing both bindis and burqas and people in skullcaps. So how are you going to identify them by their clothes? It’s not only Muslims who are against CAA and NRC,” Vaishnavi added. 

The large crowd present there also erupted in chants of “Hum ladhke rahenge” (We will keep fighting). Several prominent citizens were also present at the protest, including anti-AFSPA activist Irom Sharmila, who reached the protest with her twins, and journalist Rohini Mohan, who has covered the NRC process in Assam extensively.

Irom Sharmila, who undertook a fast for 16 years to against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Manipur, spoke about staying resilient in the face of state violence. “In this society, it’s compulsory to protest. It is never a burden. However, we must keep our mind and body balanced,” she said.

Irom Sharmila with her baby

Journalist Rohini Mohan spoke about how the NRC exercise in Assam affected the poorest of the poor. “In Assam, 75 per cent of people (who were doubtful cases) were declared foreigners. Especially the women, flood victims, landless people, and the poorest of the poor, were the worst affected by the NRC,” she said.

Chandini, one of the many women attending the protest, said, “I’m here so we can protect the secular framework of India. I’m here to stand up for my Muslim sisters, even though I wear a bindi and I probably won’t get affected by the NRC or the CAA.”

A ‘hip-hop’ protest was also going to be held in Bengaluru but after police denied them permission, the group reached Town Hall and soon, rap songs against the CAA and the NRC echoed at the venue. The group rapped songs hailing the revolution, drawing cheers from the crowd

The protest culminated with the crowd singing “Hum honge kaamiyaab” (We shall overcome), and the national anthem.

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