Nishat Hussain, 67, listens intently to all the women who come to her with grievances related to domestic violence and dowry. She helps them legally fight for their rights. She arranges lawyers and counsellors for women and provides them a safe space to feel empowered. Hussain (centre), who founded the National Muslim Women Welfare Society in December 1990, has been working for over three decades on women’s issues, especially for Muslim women. Hussain was married off early at the age of 17, and soon she found herself busy taking care of her children. But communal riots in Jaipur changed her life. The violence left her in shock. “I had never seen or heard such horrors in life. It was as if I was in a new world altogether,” she says. “I grew up in Karauli district, which is famous for several temples. Ours was the only Muslim household in the locality but we lived a very normal life. After the riots, for the first time, I heard terms like minority, majority, communal tension etc.”
Hussain says she faced a lot of resistance to her work even within her community. “I was accused of being a BJP stooge for fighting against the triple talaq” though she had also “fought against the arrest of Muslim youth under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act”. Hussain was one of the women at the forefront in the battle against triple talaq, which was later struck down by the Supreme Court.
Hussain has seen Jaipur changing, communal forces becoming active, friends and neighbours going after each other. “This city is known for its beauty and communal harmony, but the riots changed a lot of things. We are rebuilding our beautiful city and lovely country. We are fighting for the betterment of society and will always do”. Hussain says she has rejected offers by political parties to join politics. “I am a social worker and I want the betterment of all the downtrodden. I have worked for Dalits, Muslims and anyone who needs help.”
(This appeared in the print edition as "Courage Under Fire")
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