Young girls rally to safeguard secularism

On the morning of 6 December 2014, the day Babri Masjid was demolished 22 years ago , a couple of buses were brought to a halt near the Mandi House intersection. Moments later dozens of girls, mostly teenagers, came out of the vehicles and immediately fell in two lines.

Soon the area was reverberating with slogans against right wing political groups and the teenagers marched towards Jantar Mantar, waving banners with pictures of the mosque.  In his book Historic Structures of Oudhe, Graham Pickford wrote that a person whispering at one corner of the Babri Masjid can be heard at the outer limits of the mosque.

While it might be impossible to trace the last person to have whispered in the Mihrab of Babri Masjid, 22 years after its demolition, the 16th century mosque became a war-cry for a group of girls who had come to participate in the ‘Citizens March’ a remembrance rally demanding punishment for those involved in the demolition of the historic  mosque in 1992.

Thirteen-year-old Vandana, a resident from Jhilmil area of Vivek Vihar, had lied to her parents about where she and her friends were headed on a Saturday morning. “I told them we are going for a picnic. Had I not done so they would have stopped me from coming here. They are afraid I will get lost,” said Vandana while her equally excited friends giggled and narrated their stories of how they tricked their own parents.

When asked why they were at the protest rally, the smiling demeanour of these girls stiffened as they began expressing their opinions about various things including the demolition of Babri Masjid, communal riots and the idea of India itself.
After spending the entire morning raising slogans that included “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Down with nationalist terrorism”, Lakshmi (16) spoke at length about
the looming threats that communal hatred pose to the
Indian society.

“We should learn to respect each others beliefs,” said Lakshmi. Her solution to the ever increasing communalisation might sound too simplistic but her friend Roshni (17), seemed to be sure about how to solve the issue of religious polarisation. “In Delhi itself there have been several riots since government formation. The current government is the cause of the problem,” Roshini told Metrolife.

While they might have not have witnessed the demolition themselves or visited Ayodhya, youth, especially girls, joining social movements against communalisation is more like a phenomenon rather than a one-time event. According to Sumati PK of the Viplav (Rebellion) Sanskritik Manch, the younger lot of girls have come face to face with a sad realisation that during riots, the females face the brunt of violence.

“For kids of this age group the access to issues like communal hatred is limited to media representations or whatever they hear in their localities, which might be prejudiced. Their immediate concerns revolve around the struggle to study or earn a living and to get a job. And it is such social movements that introduce them to issues which are of extreme importance, something which they don’t see in their daily lives,” said Sumati who has been working with students belonging to social and religious minorities.

She said that the fact these girls belong to ‘working class families’ has caused a sudden upsurge in their participation of anti-communalism movements across the country.

“Poor people acc­ount for most deaths which ta­ke place during communal riots. In juggis, where most of the viole­nce takes place, girls are the first ones to be hidden. They are young and such things cause a deep imp­act on their psyc­he. They have rea­lised who the real enemy is and that’s why we are seeing them coming onto the streets to pro­test,” added Sumati.

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