“My father is a policeman.”
These words always come out of my mouth almost like I’m confessing to a crime.
While I recognise the privilege and safety that comes with being a daughter of a policeman, it has put me in a unique and emotionally frustrating position. Uneasiness in my life reached a peak in the aftermath of the police brutality against the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University. The incident came at a time when I had just started working as a social researcher.
While many of my fellow researchers went to Shaheen Bagh to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens and police brutality against protesting students, I was left sitting at home explaining to them that even though I support the cause, I couldn’t join the protest since my father is a policeman.
Although my father never overtly stopped me from joining the protest, while leaving for the police station, he’d often jokingly remark, “Aaj kahi Jamia toh nahi ja rahi? Roads blocked hai, aur main tujhe bachane ya lene nahi aaoonga (You aren’t going to Jamia today, are you? The roads are blocked and I won’t come to save you or pick you up)”.
With profound guilt in my heart, when friends invited me to join them at the protest site, my saying no was usually accompanied by a justification that I didn’t have to offer – that my father wasn’t in Delhi during the Jamia incident; that he had been out of the city visiting my ailing grandfather.
What I was trying to imply was that my father didn’t have anything to do with the December 15 incident at Jamia. However, later, during a discussion, he told me that students were to be blamed for the whole incident. This turned into an aggressive argument, as I came in strong support of the students of Jamia. I tried explaining to my parents that I’m not just their daughter, but a human and citizen too. But it was of no use – my mother accused me of being selfish and trying to risk my father’s job. My father ultimately warned me not to interfere in his work life.
What really troubled me was how – in the middle of having such a strained relationship with my parents, and the hindrance caused by my father being a policeman – I could find common ground with my friends, especially those who are Muslim and have studied at Jamia. How could I help them and be more than an armchair activist? How do I interact with them without making them feel vulnerable or threatened by my unfairly-held dominant position as a daughter of a father part of a police force that has perpetrated so much hatred and injustice against Muslims?
However, I was astonished to find that not only were my Muslim friends empathetic to my predicament, but during the lockdown, a couple of them showed unwavering faith in me as a confidant. While people across the country were stirring hate against the Tablighi Jamaat, a friend living near Jamia called me to confide in me that she was feeling afraid.
Another Kashmiri Muslim friend texted me regularly despite only having 2G internet, asking me about my father’s health since he’s a frontline worker.
All this often makes me wonder whether much of my uneasiness is self-induced, as I usually thought that no one would understand my situation. But in reality, much of the support comes to me from my Muslim friends only.
While being only an armchair activist due to my father being a policeman is still an impediment to many of my actions, I feel that until I’m able to make my parents understand my perspective, or if needed, fully cut my toxic relationship with them, I can at least be there for my Muslim friends emotionally and mentally.
This definitely won’t be enough in the long run, but I hope it helps even a bit in India at a time when Muslims are being unfairly targeted. I hope, in the very least, to help my friends feel less isolated and hopeless.
My intention with this article has not been to paint the Muslim community as helpless victims in any way – I have seen so much strength over these past few years as the frequency of battles against mounting injustices has increased. I also do not wish to redeem myself in any way by writing this. My sole intention is to take a step, even if it is a small one, to continue to stand in solidarity with my Muslim friends.
The writer is a social researcher.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty