How a wheel-chair bound patient’s indomitable spirit created Shaheen Bagh like anti-CAA protest in Kolkata

Video inside: 56-year-old, Asmat Jamil, a cancer and kidney patient, was one of the strongest pillars against controversial citizenship movement

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Kolkata: If anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest at Shaheen Bagh gave Dadi (Bilkis Bano) to the world, Park Circus Maidan site at Kolkata gave Asmat Baji.

Nostalgia, pain and grief were rife at the Park Circus Maidan, when fellow activists assembled to pay their last homage to their beloved Asmat Jamil, fondly addressed as Asmat baji. It was the same spot, where she with a handful of homemakers began a sit-in demonstration on January 7, 2020.

Her dedication, perseverance and never say die attitude propelled the wheelchair-bound, ailing lady into a mass leader.

Asmat, an advanced stage cancer patient, who frequently had to undergo dialysis led the anti-CAA movement from the forefront. She was seen busy motivating, coordinating or planning strategies with people who became part of the movement at the dharnasthal.

Thanks to her and many other women who joined the movement at her call, Park Circus Maidan not only emerged as major protest site till Covid-19 forced the activists to go back to the confines of their home. The zeal and enthusiasm of Asmat and her fellow activists made well-known anti-CAA faces including Shaheen Bagh’s Bilkis Bano alias Dadi, Tushar Gandhi, Rajratna Ambedkar visit the dharnasthal.

While speaking to eNewsroom, when the movement was at its peak, Asmat had said, “I might be physically unwell, but I understand the health risk involved but that is not going to stop me from coming here. I will not let the politicians with ulterior motives shred the unity and secular fabric of India.”

Listen to Asmat Jamil during her anti-CAA protest at Park Circus Maidan:

And it was this attitude of hers that made Asmat popular among the activists.

“Asmat Baji was a simple homemaker,” recalled Ratnabali Roy, a theatre artist, who was a regular face at the Park Circus dharnasthal. “She was unwell, battling cancer and a kidney ailment, but that didn’t stop her from leading the movement. She inspired us,” Roy reminisced. She maintained that the love for the Constitution that Asmat bore was comparable to her love for the three children that she has left behind.

Debu Shaw, a regular night guard at the dharnasthal, broke into tears, as he remembered his Asmat Baji. He pointed out, “I hold these anti-human laws responsible for her death. She was so worried about the democratic fabric of India being shredded to bits by CAA and NRC that she never cared about her health. She was so dedicated to the cause that she was here always, leading the movement from the forefront.”

Meanwhile, fellow activist, Manzar Jameel, remembered her as the face of the movement, who even in her death has left many inspired. He mentioned, “We are here to bid the final farewell to the lady who became the symbol of vigil against the citizenship regime.”

Adding to that Rafay Siddiqui, another activist from Kolkata said, “She was a role model. Sadly, we have lost her. But even in her death, she has left thousands of Asmat Jamils, who will be back on the streets if needed.” He recalled how Asmat had to rush to Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Centre for treatment when the movement was at its peak. “But that visit didn’t deter her from coming to the dharnasthal.”

Wali Rahmani, a youth icon, who also protested against CAA with Asmat added, “Despite being fragile health-wise, this iron lady kept fighting against the fascist government for the rights of the citizens. History shall indebted to her sacrifices.”

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In recent times, people-centric journalism is being done mostly by independent digital media. These organizations run on public support. Founded in 2017, eNewsroom India has been doing meaningful stories for over four years now. We practice ‘Old School Journalism’ and focus on under-reported stories from Bengal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan regularly. Our opinion pieces come from across the country.

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