Delhi/Kolkata: What would you do when you turn eighty? Well, not many would volunteer to sit on the streets of Delhi, beating the chilling cold to express her solidarity with the anti-NRC activists and the anti-NRC movement. But that’s what exactly this 82-year-old lady – Bilkis, with silver-grey eyes, deep penetrating eyes and a quivering voice did.
Fondly called dadi (grandmother), she sat at the iconic Shaheen Bagh protest site, despite having fever, travelled to other protest sites across India to motivate fellow anti-NRC activist. But as dadi did so, little did she expect to make it to the list of Time 100: Most Influential People of 2020.
Speaking to eNewsroom over the phone from Delhi, dadi reacted, “It’s a good feeling. I am grateful to the almighty for blessing me in this manner. But I would have been happier if the discriminatory law (Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019) had been revoked along with both the National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizenship (NRC) being stalled.”
When asked, what she did, before becoming the face of Shaheen Bagh, the octogenarian, said with a laugh, “Nothing really great. Throughout my life, I have been a homemaker. All I wanted was the happiness of my kids and grandkids.” On being asked about what made her sit at the dharna sthal braving the cold and failing health. She said, “I had no option but to come on to the streets. You, see, this law is discriminatory and aims at shredding the secular fabric of the India that I was born in.” She paused and added, “I am an old lady. I didn’t sit there thinking of any personal gain. I genuinely feel that amendments in citizenship law is a threat not just to my kids but to millions of Indians.”
The octogenarian maintained that she is a farmer’s daughter married into an agrarian family that has its roots in Kurana Meerpur, a village in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh. Her son Manzoor Ahmad said, “Ammi, used to live in our village with our father. She came to live with us in Delhi, only after he passed away a decade back.”
Bilkis, on being asked, if she would be back on the streets once the pandemic was over, maintained, “At present, our fight is against Corona. Once the pandemic is over and if the government doesn’t pay heed to our pleas, then if needed, I will be back on the street.”
When said that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and she (a dissenter) making it to the same list, Bilkis said, “Well, our Prime Minister, when the movement was at its peak, had not come forward to listen to our issues. But, see today both of us stand as equals on the list. I take this opportunity to request him to meet us and listen to us.” She paused and added, “I want to meet him and tell him that I want India to be exactly the way it was when I was young. I will also be writing to him soon.”
On the question of her fellow protesters being hounded and putting behind bars, The Time Person of The Year said, “If they can hear me, then I am requesting the government to release these kids, as they are innocent and are protesting to have their rights restored.”