Why I Fight

I am a privileged woman – an English-speaking, upper caste, economically secure, socially aware, articulate citizen of India.

I live in a home with a warm quilt, regular meals, occasional alcohol, and until recently, even a few cigarettes. I drive a car of my choice. I haven’t chosen a ‘life partner’ yet.

What I have is the privilege of choice. I can choose to be part of a fight, or choose to be silent. I can choose to be a fierce feminist (which I am), or I can choose a simpler life of conformity that would be infinitely less confrontational.

Why then do I fight? Alongside stronger women, who have become the face of this movement? Alongside the less privileged? The oppressed? The targeted? The attacked? Why? I have the comforts most want and seek in life.

Why do I choose to join the struggle?

Because I can.

The very fact that millions of us have privilege needs to be an impetus for us to fight for those who don’t. For those who will be uprooted for who they are from the only place they have recognised as home. For those constantly and irreversibly demonised – in culture, spatially, and now even physically. For whom a display of religiosity becomes reason enough to be vilified.

When we see a minority not as ‘people’ while their everyday lives get impacted by a regimented, relentless onslaught of hate, we have allowed privilege to seep into our gaze.

Pause for a moment and see that this not as an academic exercise, or something you view on TV – which makes what is happening in our very city feel like it is part of a distant world that doesn’t quite touch ours.

These are people – people hoping to earn an honest living; people with dreams, ambitions and love. People who want their children to have a future that they never had; a positive, happy and peaceful future.

Enter a protest at Jamia or Shaheen Bagh and you’ll see the gratitude on the faces you’ve come to support. It’s an expression of inspiration, of welcome, of warmth and of genuine love.

We fight because these solidarities, this love, this warmth is more important than the idea of being clubbed into a ‘majority’ that has no existence in the defining text of our country’s constitution.

We fight because these are defining times of our country’s democracy. Where A-list Bollywood actresses stand alongside JNU. Where women have risen across spaces, complete with their identities as they recognise them, for the same truth. Where women have shielded men from getting attacked. Where women have carried bruises and returned to fight the very next day. Where we are seeing feminism be the genuine opponent of patriarchal fascist oppressors. Where little girls – all of 11 – are leading crowds with slogans of azaadi, and 90-year-old indefatigable women are getting onto Primetime news, counting nine generations on their fingertips and challenging our fascist prime minister to even count seven.

Where each of these women, each of us who are fighting, are doing so without hiding our faces. We are reading the preamble in our voices and with our faces in full view. We are roaming the streets screaming slogans and organising protests with our defiance in full view.

We are seeing defined ‘opposites’ converge, and come together, united by the idea of empathy and love.

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The youth of this country is awake now and know that fighting oppression is something we can do. After what was sold to us in 2014 as ‘hope’, this realisation of a world we are watching crumble is deeply-rooted in reality with our feet firmly on the ground.

What has been lost over the past six years is the ability to question out elected government. With the media only parroting the government line, we turned to role models who have always been true to journalism, with depth and rigour. We steadily began to realise the power of our own voices, allowing out angst to be expressed.

What these protests teach us is that people will band together for the right reasons. That protest art and poetry are very much alive and kicking. Most of all, it is the disarming humour and defiance that is so deeply particular to the youth.

The ability to laugh in the face of impending doom and yet take it on is defiance in its own right.

So, to fight is also to rejoice; rejoicing the fact that one is using one’s privilege for a world that will be more inclusive. It is to express. It is also to experience being part of a rebellion, and standing by what is right. To find your tribe in people defending the basic principles of secularity India has always stood for.

And at a protest, to stand shoulder to shoulder with a woman from Assam, fighting for the rights of oppressed Muslims in the country, and together wonder what it feels like to have suffered a lockdown for 150 days.

To fight is to wake up. And to stay awake till things change.

That is why I fight.

You can read more from Saumya Baijal on her blog saumyabaijal.blogspot.com.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty