Many Indians would know what I mean when I say that, by the time I reached the last month of 2019, I had exhausted the energy to keep up with the news of spreading communalism (and ‘news’ that spread communalism). The widely prevalent references to Nazi Germany and concentration camps to discuss the impending statelessness of millions of Indian Muslims was disconcerting on many counts. Honestly, it was devastating to have to come to terms that a vast majority of Indians were so full of hate that they did not care if a section of their compatriots were disenfranchised or condemned to an even worse fate. Or to have to accept that Indian Muslims were considered sitting ducks who could be deported en masse to detention camps without a whimper—as a famously told chronology would have it.
But that’s when the protests began. It began the day the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed in the Rajya Sabha—first, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), a central university in Delhi, spoke up. Women students marched out of their hostels, braving the rain and biting cold. Three of them—Ayesha Renna, Ladeeda Farzana and Chanda Yadav—were iconised in a frame, their fists raised in slogans. It was this defiant image that first caught the attention of students and multitudes of citizens across the country. They wanted their voices to travel far, said Ayesha and Ladeeda. It did.